Obama Takes on Health Reform Opponents at Town-Hall Meeting
At a town-hall meeting in Portsmouth, N.H., on Tuesday, President Obama took aim at the "misinformation" and "scare tactics" that some are using to garner opposition to Democrats' health reform plans, the Washington Post reports (Kornblut/Shear, Washington Post, 8/12).
"Where we disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to what's been proposed," he said, adding that special interests who oppose reform always "try to scare the heck out of folks, and they'll create boogeymen out there that just aren't real" (Henderson, Politico, 8/11). Obama continued, "We can't let them do it again. Not this time. Not now" (Washington Post, 8/12). As the debate over health care continues, the president said he hopes "we will talk with each other and not over each other" (Youngman, The Hill, 8/11).
Obama told the audience of about 1,800 people that health reform is "not about putting the government in charge of your health insurance." He said, "I don't think government bureaucrats should be meddling, but I don't think insurance company bureaucrats should be meddling" in health care decisions, either (Politico, 8/11).
According to Obama, U.S. residents are too often "held hostage" by insurers. Health coverage "should be there when it counts, not just when you're paying premiums but when you actually get sick," he said (Spetalnick/Bigg, Reuters, 8/11). "For all the chatter and the yelling and the shouting and the noise, what you need to know is this: If you don't have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options, once we pass reform," and if "you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or a government bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need," Obama said (Wolf/Page, USA Today, 8/12).
"What is truly scary, what is truly risky is if we do nothing," Obama said, warning that health insurance premiums will continue to skyrocket and the national deficit will increase because Medicare and Medicaid "are on an unsustainable path."
Obama is scheduled to hold a second town-hall meeting in Bozeman, Mont., on Friday to discuss people who have lost their health care coverage after being diagnosed with an illness. On Saturday, he will hold another town-hall meeting where he will highlight rising out-of-pocket costs for health insurance (Washington Post, 8/12).
Medicare Provision Takes Center Stage
During the town-hall meeting, Obama directly addressed the rumor that his plan would establish "death panels" (Mosk, Washington Times, 8/12).
He explained how this notion "arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills," and that somehow "it's gotten spun into this idea of death panels," adding, "I am not in favor of that" (Parsons, Baltimore Sun, 8/12).
Obama also addressed the "myth" that the health care plan will cut Medicare benefits. He said, "I just want to assure [you] we're not talking about cutting Medicare benefits. We are talking about making Medicare more efficient, eliminating the insurance subsidies, working with hospitals so that they are changing some of the reimbursement practices."
Obama said, "We do think that systems like Medicare are very inefficient right now, but it has nothing to do at the moment with issues of benefits." According to the president, one of the "inefficiencies" is the Medicare Advantage program. Obama said that through the program, the government is "subsidizing" insurance companies (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 8/11).
Although the audience at Obama's town-hall meeting was mostly receptive and friendly, about 1,000 demonstrators for and against health reform were gathered outside (USA Today, 8/12).
Poll Shows Declining Support
In related news, a recently released Rasmussen Reports survey found that support for health care reform has fallen to 42% -- 5% lower than it was two weeks ago and 8% lower than six weeks ago, CQ Today reports. The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted from Aug. 9-10 and found that 44% of respondents strongly oppose reform, while 26% strongly support it. The strongest opposition came from likely voters older than age 65.
Seven in 10 Democrats support the overhaul, while about the same number of Republicans oppose it. Sixty-two percent of independent voters said they oppose the plan. However, 51% of all voters said they believe it is still at least somewhat likely that health care reform will be enacted this year.
When asked about the protests at the town-hall meetings taking place over the August recess, 49% of respondents said they believed that the individuals were genuinely expressing their views, while 37% believe they are being put up to it by special-interest groups and lobbyists (Bettelheim, CQ Today, 8/11).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Tuesday reported on Obama's town-hall meeting in New Hampshire (Gonyea, "All Things Considered," NPR, 8/11). "All Things Considered" also reported on the protests taking place outside the meeting (Rogers, "All Things Considered," NPR, 8/11).
PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on Tuesday discussed Obama's remarks at the town-hall meeting and the prospects of health reform. The discussion featured editorial page editors Nolan Finley of the Detroit News and John Diaz of the San Francisco Chronicle, and columnists Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Robert Robb of the Arizona Republic (Brown, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 8/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.