President Stumps for Reform Plans in Western States Over Weekend
President Obama on Friday and Saturday traveled to Belgrade, Mont., and Grand Junction, Colo., respectively, for a pair of town-hall meetings regarding health reform, the Washington Post reports.
According to the Post, the meetings were an attempt to dispel growing criticisms of Democratic reform proposals.
On Friday, Obama, addressing a crowd of about 1,300, said that the U.S. needs health reform largely because of the practices of insurance companies, including their refusal to accept patients with pre-existing conditions or to pay for certain treatments for patients who have coverage.
Obama said that he does not intend to vilify all insurance companies. He added that some have been "constructive" regarding reform efforts, while others have fought against "any kind of reform proposals."
He also said that the government would not tax the middle class to pay for reform (Shear, Washington Post, 8/15).
In front of a crowd of about 1,600 U.S. residents on Saturday, Obama said current health reform proposals would help "ordinary Americans ... held hostage by health insurance companies that deny them coverage, or drop their coverage, or charge fees that they can't afford for care they desperately need."
He took questions about whether the proposals would unfairly burden physicians and nurses, whether they would put sufficient cost controls on the government and whether a public health insurance option would drive private insurers out of business.
The president assured attendees that the public plan option is "not about eliminating private insurance" (Williamson, Wall Street Journal, 8/15).
On Saturday, Obama also addressed charges that Democrats are seeking to implement "death panels" that would feature bureaucrats making decisions about whether elderly or seriously ill patients live or die (Shear, Washington Post, 8/16).
Referencing his grandmother who died just before the presidential election, Obama said, "I know what it's like to watch somebody you love who's aging deteriorate, and struggle with that," adding, "Pulling the plug on grandma? When you start making arguments like that, that's simply dishonest" (Wall Street Journal, 8/15).
Obama Criticizes Town-Hall Opponents
During his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, Obama spoke to the tactics of health reform opponents at some lawmakers' town-hall events and suggested that the hostility evident at the meetings is not indicative of the nation's feelings on reform as a whole, Roll Call reports.
He said, "Those who would stand in the way of reform will say almost anything to scare you about the cost of action." He added, "TV loves a ruckus. But what you haven't seen -- because it's not as exciting -- are the many constructive meetings going on all over the country where Americans are airing their hopes and concerns about this very important issue" (Koffler, Roll Call, 8/15).
Obama Opinion Piece
"[O]ver the past few weeks, much of the media attention has been focused on the loudest voices" in the debate over health reform, but what "we haven't heard are the voices of the millions upon millions of Americans who quietly struggle every day with a system that often works better for the health insurance companies than it does for them," Obama writes in a New York Times opinion piece.
He continues that there are "four main ways" current reform proposals would "provide more stability and security to every American." He writes, "First, if you don't have health insurance, you will have a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for yourself and your family." Obama continues, "Second, reform will finally bring skyrocketing health care costs under control, which will mean real savings for families, businesses and our government." According to Obama, the third benefit would be "making Medicare more efficient," which will allow lawmakers to "ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies." He adds, "Lastly, reform will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable."
He concludes, "In the end, this isn't about politics. This is about people's lives and livelihoods. This is about people's businesses. This is about America's future, and whether we will be able to look back years from now and say that this was the moment when we made the changes we needed, and gave our children a better life" (Obama, New York Times, 8/16).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.