President Pushes for Health Care Reform in Town Hall Meeting
At a town hall meeting in Annandale, Va., on Wednesday, President Obama said that reforming health care "is a moral imperative, and it is an economic imperative," the Washington Post reports (Shear/Vargas, Washington Post, 7/2).
Obama stressed that the public must urge Congress to pass overhaul legislation. He said, "You are what are going to drive this process forward -- because if Congress thinks that the American people don't want to see change, frankly, the lobbyists and the special interests will end up winning the day" (Milligan, Boston Globe, 7/2).
Obama also said, "For those who say, 'Well, you know what, this is something that is very complicated, so we shouldn't rush into it,' that's what happens in Congress all the time," adding, "They have hearings, they write white papers, and then suddenly the lobbyists and the special interests start going at it" (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 7/2).
Obama said, "Next thing you know, another 10 years has gone by, and we still haven't done anything" (Zeleny, New York Times, 7/2).
In addition, Obama said that unless the health care system is overhauled, "a bigger, bigger bite" will be taken out of people's paychecks, even if they have health insurance (Los Angeles Times, 7/2).
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Obama also defended his proposal for a new public health insurance plan against charges that it would dominate the market and eliminate coverage for certain treatments.
Obama said, "I don't want to take over health care. They'll tell you we want to ration the system," adding that when doctors and patients decide to use lower-cost drugs, it is "not rationing. That's common sense" (Boston Globe, 7/2).
When asked about a proposal to tax employer-sponsored health benefits, Obama said that the proposal, which has been endorsed by some lawmakers and policymakers, is "going to be debated in the House and the Senate," adding, "We're all going to have to weigh in on it" (Page, USA Today, 7/1).
Obama said he would prefer funding reform by limiting the amount of charitable deductions that can be claimed by people with annual incomes greater than $250,000, which he said could raise $318 billion each year.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) posed a question by video about whether Obama would support capping jury awards for malpractice suits against doctors, which many point to as a source of high costs in the health system (Ward, Washington Times, 7/2).
Obama said that he does not "like the idea of an artificial cap" and noted that there is little evidence that state efforts to limit such awards actually have brought down overall costs (Elliott/Babington, AP/Washington Post, 7/1). He said that the more important problem is the incentives for physicians to order unnecessary tests and procedures to make personal profits (Washington Times, 7/2).
Matt Moon, a deputy research director at the Republican National Committee who live-blogged his party's response to Obama's statements, wrote, "Obama says our economy is in crisis because of health care costs," but "his government-run plan will make it even worse, putting our country further into debt" (Washington Post, 7/2).
RNC spokesperson Trevor Francis said, "Americans are already skeptical about the cost and adverse impact of the president's health care plans." He also voiced criticism that Obama's staff selected favorable questions for him to answer, and that the three audience members called on to pose questions of Obama were all associated with groups close to the Democratic Party.Francis said, "Stacking the audience and preselecting questions may make for a good TV, but it's the wrong way to engage in a meaningful discussion about reforming health care" (AP/Washington Post, 7/1). 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.