July 1st, 2009
06:33 PM ET
6 months ago

Obama assails 'scare tactics' by health care opponents

ANNANDALE, Virginia (CNN) – President Barack Obama used a town hall meeting Wednesday to urge Americans to reject what he called fear-mongering by those who oppose fixing the nation's ailing health care system this year.

"If we don't act, if we let this moment pass, we could see this economy sputter along for decades," Obama said at the event that included questions from audience members and through interactive networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

"I want everybody to be well-enough informed so that the scare tactics of those who oppose reform won't work," he said in reference to Republican opponents who accuse him of seeking a government takeover of health care to create a nationalized system such as those in England and Canada. "Don't let people scare you out of reforming a system we know is not working."

It was Obama's second town hall meeting in a week, reflecting his effort to engage citizens early in the process of deliberations in Congress.

The event at Northern Virginia Community College came amid some good news for Obama on health care.

On Tuesday, former comedian Al Franken, a strong supporter of the universal health care backed by the president, was declared the winner of Minnesota's disputed Senate election. Franken's victory puts a filibuster-proof total of 60 senators in the chamber's Democratic caucus.

And on Wednesday, Wal-Mart joined the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Center for American Progress economic think tank in supporting Obama's call for large employers to offer health insurance to their workers.

"We are for shared responsibility. Not every business can make the same contribution but everyone must make some contribution," said a letter to Obama signed by Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke, SEIU President Andy Stern and Center for American Progress CEO John Podesta. "We are for an employer mandate which is fair and broad in its coverage, but any alternative to an employer mandate should not create barriers to hiring entry-level workers."

Obama wants to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care, and to encourage doctors and hospitals to avoid ordering unnecessary procedures while still providing a high quality of care.

He repeatedly stated those goals Wednesday, along with his desire for a government-funded health care option to compete with private insurers.

However, Republicans and some Democrats oppose that plan, with the strongest critics saying it eventually will bring a government-run system because private insurers will be unable to compete with a subsidized government program. Obama scoffed at that concern, noting those expressing it are claiming that private insurers currently are doing a good job.

"If they're so great, why are they worried about competing with the public plan?" he said to laughter, adding that the critics also are the ones who claim the government can't run anything right.

Several congressional committees are considering legislative proposals, most of which would have a hefty price tag: around $1 trillion. A major concern is possible tax increases, such as a new tax on employer-sponsored health care benefits, to help foot the bill.

Obama repeated his preference to raise money to pay for health care reform by capping tax deductions for Americans earning more than $250,000 a year. In response to a question, he acknowledged the Senate Finance Committee's discussion of instead creating a new tax on the medical benefits provided by employers.

While Obama said he thinks his idea is better, he stopped short of rejecting the possible new tax.

"My bottom line ... is that if you've got health insurance right now, you shouldn't suddenly see your costs go up as a result of health care reform," he said.

Meanwhile, a national poll suggests that a bare majority of Americans support Obama's health care plan.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday morning indicates that most people worry that their health care costs would go up if the administration's proposals passed and only one in five thinks that their families would be better off under the Obama plan.


Filed under: Health care • President Obama
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Lesley

    Oh sure, make the middle class pay. Heaven forbid that the very wealthy lose their enormous tax breaks. There's no reason why Obama can't keep his promise of no new taxes for people earning under $250k and end the massive tax giveaways to the wealthiest of Americans.

    July 1, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  2. Donny

    Explain to me how fixing health care is going to stimulate the economy? How can one make the correlation that if we don't act on healthcare now, that the economy will not improve? The correlation there seems to be a -1.

    July 1, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  3. fair MSM

    Mr President:

    These things seem to either be "Not released" or "Not available." I'm sure it's just an oversight or glitch or something, so if you could you tell me where these things are - I - I have them written down here somewhere - oh wait. Sorry about the smears. It was raining out. I'll just read it to you. Could you please help me find these things sir:

    1. Occidental College records - Not released 2. Columbia College records - Not released 3. Columbia Thesis paper - "Not available" 4. Harvard College records - Not released 5. Selective Service Registration - Not released 6. Medical records - Not released 7. Illinois State Senate schedule - Not available 8. Your Illinois State Senate records - Not available 9. Law practice client list - Not released 10. Certified Copy of original Birth certificate - Not released 11. Embossed, signed paper Certification of Live Birth - Not released 12. Record of your baptism - Not available.

    You are a mystry to us. How can we trust a person with so much doubts and mysterious past? Every candidates in the past were "open books" to us so that we can know their world views and things like that, BUT YOU.

    Why do you have a pass? Who gave you the pass? We, a group of EX-DEMS want to know.

    July 1, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  4. Paul C

    It's amazing that supposedly intelligent people think that the current system is the best. No one complains about the trillion dollars we have wasted in Iraq but won't consider paying that much for health care.
    We could learn a lot from Canada. No one there ever filed for bankruptcy because of medical bills. They are content to watch us spend large fortunes racing from one military crisis to another like some demented John Wayne.

    July 1, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  5. Carnell Terry

    My Comments On This Subject Is That This Is What Makes President Barack Obama Such A Great Person. He Speaks And Makes Himself Available To The American People About Their Issues. While Not Getting Caught Up In The Convenience And Self-Fullfiling Profecy Broadcasted By The Ultimate Political Opportnists Both (Definitly) Republicans And Democrats.

    July 1, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  6. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Scare tactics? Oh you mean like the scare tactics he used to get the stimulus bill passed without anyone in Congress even reading it? He said we would go into depression without the bill, and now with only a tiny fraction of the money obligated there are signs of recovery, so how was all this money needed?

    July 1, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  7. thin is in?

    How about reporting the FACT that this was no OPEN town hall meeting "with the folks" as the QUESTIONS and the PARTICIPANTS WERE ALL PRE-SCREENED by Obambi and company.

    CBS and Helen Thomas of all people hammered Gibbs today about this and like his uh, uh, uh, uh, uh boss, he stuttered with his usual NON-ANSWER.

    How about their throwing out of any negative reporting of global warming by the EPA as it would hurt their "cause"?

    Transparency, like wood..................

    July 1, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  8. ib

    Obama is the scary one. This country is broke and he is to dumb to realize it and still spending like a kid in a toy store.

    July 1, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  9. Jason P

    For Obama's plan to truly gain traction, he needs to run a campaign-style media blitz to break through all of the counter, and sometimes blatently false, information currently out in the public sphere. If 75% of the American public wants the public option as a part of the plan, make Congress pass a bill with a public option, whether they want to or not. How you may ask, scare them by putting their opposition/support out in the public eye. As we all know, a Congressman or Senator will do what is "right," ESPECIALLY when they are up for re-election.

    Obama's plan has to include 1) the ability of consumers to maintain their current plan, 2) the ability of consumers to choose their own doctors, 3) the ability to choose a plan without fear of repercussions (from employers, former insurers or doctors), and 4) a feasible way of covering the expenses of the plan.

    The plan HAS to be broken down so ANYONE can understand it. Just don't make it AS simple as the four page pathetic excuse for a stalling tactic that the Republicans rolled out solely to gain media attention and it will be fine!

    July 1, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  10. mjm

    "If we don't act, if we let this moment pass, we could see this economy sputter along for decades," Obama said...

    You mean scare tactics like that?

    We have Medicare, Medicaid and S-Chip programs.... But somehow we need more?

    We've been trying to "fix" Medicare for years....Now they want a new public plan. Based on what model of success? The VA?

    Private insurance already has affordable coverage that meets the majority of the peoples needs. Some people choose not to purchase their own health care....that's their choice.

    If you want coverage simply sign up for a plan that fits your budget.

    Stop looking to the government for answers.

    July 1, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  11. joe smith

    he might want to assail the less than productive staff working on the Freddie Mac report, that was due on His desk, May,2009. after all, this financial report goes to the heart of the recovery..what gives, wheres' the transparency..

    July 1, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  12. Tina

    I don't care what Obama says. I don't like the idea of a public plan. This plan will be a disaterous failure when people with private insurance can no longer get in to see their PCP and have to wait 6 months to see a specialist. I'm glad I'm having elective surgery now while I still have insurance to pay for it. I'm sure employers will be forcing their employees by the thousands onto the public plan when they make it prohibitively expensive to choose anything but public healthcare.

    So where are all the general practiciners going to come from who will be needed to see all of the people who will have insurance now and presumably will stop using the ER for their basic healthcare?

    July 1, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  13. katn

    I lived in Canada for a year. Using their health care system was easy. It was great. I'm not afraid of national healthcare and nobody else should be either.

    July 1, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  14. Legna

    He assailed the Iraq policy, he assailed the Bush foreign doctrine, he assailed the over spending policy of the Bush regime,he assailed this and that..We will c how accurate he was n 6 more mths.

    July 1, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  15. Jenn, Philadelphia

    I think were watching the birth of "Big Brother". A report came out today saying that obesity statistics increased over the last year despite efforts to trim the national diet. Now that the government is getting into the health care business, it's a matter of time before they tell us what to eat and what to drink. We should be worried about our government getting involved in as much of private industry as it has. We try to convince the rest of the world to embrace democracy as we move further and further away from it.

    July 1, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  16. Dave

    The person using the scare tactics is President Obama in his push to pass a major health care bill before it can be analyzed and understood.

    While I'm in favor of providing health care coverage for those who can't afford it, I don't want it to cost me my health care by forcing me into a minimal HMO style plan plan where my choices are controlled by the government. I also don't want my taxes to increase when he promised that they wouldn't.

    July 1, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  17. IL Lupus

    Blue Cross Blue Shield CIGNA Humana.......... Stop using Pre-existing Conditions! These big companies spend more money for a big expensive law firm;thus, cutting Health Insurance for the average ordinary family in need of Health Insurance!

    Blue Cross Blue Shield stop spending money for lawyers and start giving Health Insurance to citizens of the USA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 1, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  18. Lois Lake

    This reminds me of "Peter Pan" "I believe, I believe, I believe." Say it often enough (snaps fingers) and it becomes reality? To this new wish list, I say "Dream On."
    Meantime, the poor who are unemployed and have lost their family insurance coverage, and minimum wage earners, along with anyone (repeat "ANYONE") unfortunate enough to need immediate medical attention while you wait for your precious voucher to be approved, this represents a vicious mass destruction that possibly leads to forced victims of murder due to lack of social status within our country, which will ultimately deny a large portion of it's public of basic health care. The poor public that can't find work, or is unable to work, that can't afford any insurance basic package, or spin down/co-pay required prior to treatment, let alone an additional tax for a benefit they will not be able to share in.
    But, then that isn't a dream, it is a nightmare. Wake Up!

    July 1, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  19. Tony P.

    In reality,
    We're all fighting over the Health Insurance Industry's GOP proclaimed "right" for uncontrollable inflation providing them record profits; as they still decide which persons they will, and will NOT insure, after having sold them a policy or completely turned that person down for coverage.
    In reality,
    We're all fighting over the Pharmaceutical Industry's GOP proclaimed"right" for uncontrollable inflation providing them record profits; as those companies over inflate Drug treatment costs more than the majority of companies in the world from tax shelter jurisdictions where they manufacture and distribute products.
    This is a "no brainer" folks (except those in Arizona who have no brains) !!! Everybody knows the motive for GOP scare tactics against health care reform is a motive secretely designed to PROTECT Helath Insurance companies, Pharmaceutical companies, and State Lobbyists who represent those companies. Those are the ones responsible for uncontrollable inflation in the Health Care Industry....not doctors or Nurses... The GOP is "twisting" the word REFORM and claiming it as a Government takeover....when the Genuine GOP motive is protecting those previously mentioned companies who have been destroying our economy.

    July 1, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  20. janelle

    No one denies the current health care system does not work. However, rushing into a government run system isn't the answer either. All one need do to see this for themselves is go into a doctor's office anywhere within 100 miles of the Canadian border, and ask the over half of patients there who are Canadian citizens why the come to the States and pay full price out of pocket cash rather than utilize their wonderful government run health care system.

    We already have government run public health insurance. It's called Medicare and Medicaid. So we can already see what a mismanaged mess we'll be stuck with if the government controls our health insurance. And that's just a small portion of our citizenship, how much bigger will the mess be if it is for every citizen?

    I don't claim to have the answer, but I can clearly see what the answer IS NOT. We don't need to hurry up and rush something through. We've done enough of that already. Let's truly get something accomplished, but take the time to do it right. There's no going back once we've set this in motion.

    July 1, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  21. Gary

    Baloney...it is not scare tactics. These are major decisions that we need to debate and at times that debate will be scary because if we screw this up we may make our healthcare system worse or may bankrupt our country.....

    We need to start with Malpractice Reform. Then we need to discuss getting more doctors in the country (either train more or more foreign docs), this will bring down doctor salaries. Then we need solutioins that do not involve government run insurance or government socialized medicine. Everyone in the country must work and must contribute something to their own healthcare. There is no free lunch!

    July 1, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  22. Jon

    Obama has a lot of nerve talking about scare tactics. His entire adminstration is based on scare tactics. Let' s see, if we don't pass the energy bill New York City will be under water next year, if we don't bail out all the banks there will be a recession (got that one wrong, didn't you) and now it's if you don't socialize medicine everybody will die. Obama is a liar and the sooner the idiots who voted for him figure that out (if they ever do) the better.

    July 1, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  23. Chris

    I have government health care from the U.S. Army. Take a tour of Walter Reed. Also, it takes two-three weeks for my sick children to been seen. Instead of government healthcare, may the industry (doctors, etc.) needs to be regulated.

    July 1, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  24. Tim

    At the risk of being called a racist, now that is the kettle calling the pot black.

    July 1, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  25. B Touchstone

    Like a lot of people, I wonder if the government really has a handle on what it is proposing to do. The cost could be enormous. With projected debt at 1.8 trillion dollars, how do we add this?

    The theory is that a government alternative will force insurance companies to be more efficient. So, let me see if I understand this...a taxpayer funded federal program with no profit and loss responsiblity is going to be more efficient?? When was a federal program ever "more efficient." And besides, what is the hurry? THe hurry is that once a program is started it is nearly impossible politically to end. Once two years pass and a new election occurs in the house, it is a certainty that the Dems won't have their bullet proof majority.

    As a country we are going to face enormous outflows for Social Security in addition to paying the interest on the debt that is accumulating at an alarming rate as well as the expense of maintaining our military position in the world in the face of a strengthening China. Obama is less intelligent than he seemed to be a few months ago if he thinks we can do all of this AND add taking on the cost of the health care system. This is a potential disaster, and it won't go away once it begins. Slow down Obama.

    July 1, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
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