The President held a town hall on health care with voters in New Hampshire Tuesday. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire (CNN) - President Barack Obama complained Tuesday about opposition scare tactics against a proposed health-care overhaul, but said failing to fix problems in the current system would be the scariest outcome of all.
Obama addressed a supportive town hall meeting here that contrasted with combative events held by Democratic Congress members that have generated heated and sometimes disruptive responses. Earlier Tuesday, a hostile crowd shouted questions and made angry statements against proposed health-care legislation at a Pennsylvania meeting led by Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter.
Obama and Democratic leaders have accused opponents of health-care changes of organizing protests intended to drown out the debate, while Republicans respond the public anger is a genuine response to what they call excessive and misguided legislation.
In New Hampshire, Obama welcomed a "vigorous" debate as part of the democratic process, but said people should talk "with each other and not over each other." He criticized "wild misrepresentations" by special interests trying to undermine health-care legislation before Congress.
In particular, Obama rejected rumors that a health-care bill passed by a House committee included setting up so-called "death panels" to decide if senior citizens get treatment. He called spreading such rumors a long-standing practice by opponents of health-care reform, such as "those who profit under the status quo."
"What is really scary, what is really risky, is to do nothing," Obama said, noting that premiums paid for health-care coverage were rising three times faster than wages and that the government-run Medicare program for senior citizens would run out of money within a decade.
In a new twist at such forums, Obama specifically asked for questions from opponents of health-care legislation to address issues of concern.
He repeated past guarantees that a health-care overhaul won't force anyone to give up health insurance they like and won't cut Medicare benefits, and he stood by his election pledge that he won't raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 a year.
At the same time, Obama defended his call for a government-funded public health insurance option to compete against private insurers. He said such an option would hold down rates, rejecting accusations it amounted to a government takeover of health care because private companies can't compete with a government-funded plan.
"UPS and FedEx are doing just fine," Obama said, referring to private courier services that compete with the U.S. Postal Service. "It's the Post Office that's always having problems."
The atmosphere was different at Specter's morning event in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where angry questioners made emotional statements against health-care proposals that they likened to a socialist takeover of the country. One man who shouted an unsolicited comment was shoved by another, prompting Specter to intervene while warning that those disrupting the meeting would be thrown out.
Videos of other protests circulating on the Internet show raucous crowds heckling their representatives in Congress and carrying posters with devil horns drawn on lawmakers' heads, swastikas, or Obama with Adolf Hitler's mustache drawn on his face.
The White House has launched what it calls a Health Insurance Reform Reality Check Web site designed to combat what the administration considers misinformation about the issue. The Web page features Obama aides discussing various aspects of health-care reform.
However, the Web site prompted Republican complaints that Obama's government would use it to compile a list of enemies. Obama rejected that accusation too.
He called a health-care overhaul essential for ensuring long-term economic stability while ensuring that that virtually all Americans have access to health insurance.
"The status quo is not working for you," Obama said to applause.
Congressional action on a health-care overhaul has slowed due to strong Republican opposition. Neither chamber met Obama's desired goal of passing a bill before their August recess.
In particular, Republicans and some Democrats reject the proposed public option, which they believe will lead to a government takeover of the health-care system and prove too costly.
Finally, some sanity. He took questions from both sides of the argument. He clarified the spin. People didn't need to shout, and unlike W, the opposition wasn't relegated to a free speech zone located far from the town hall. THIS is what America is supposed to do – discuss issues and try to find solutions.
Shouting solves nothing.
President Obama has no idea how angry and fustrated the american people are,that we are not being listening to. He (Obama) has his own agenda, thats the only thing he is interested in. The townhall meeting atmosphere should give him a clue, we are nearing the end of our sit back and lets see attitude.
For a party that prides itself as tough I have never seen so many whining babies.
I just heard on Fox news how the healthcare plan will force our senior citizens to commit suicide. Then the narcisstic socialist obamabots will process them into hamburger meat and feed them to my grandbabies in their school lunches! It says this on page 666 of the bill. Read it for yourselfs. Have a nice day!
Gee President Obama you know what is really scarier??
You not reading the Bill & not knowing what is in the Bill but going around promoting said Bill!!
CBO already said nothing you say is in the Bill. Not to mention your single payer desires already expressed in 2007.
Thanks America for sending this incompetent to WH. Yeah that On the Job Training is really working out for us!
yes we need reform.
reform is NOT government take over.
The government will NOT fight fair. I will NOT be forced into a government run plan.
THe more Obama says "I can keep my plan if I like it" the more I know he's lying.
If Medicare underprices what private insurers can negotiate then people will be forced onto a government plan. They can never convince me differently because if they do they're lying.
why are pharm companies supporting obama?? someone/anyone report on this
Mr. President we arent asking you to do nothing. Most people want reform in some way. We just dont want it to be a gov run plan. Why not tackle TARP payments or finding a better way to deliver electronic record systems. Heck we just spent billions bailing out the auto and financial industries, but are you going to guarantee jobs for the hundreds of thousand hard working middle class Americans whose jobs you could take away with your Gov plan?
Sounds to me that the President undermined his own argument by saying UPS and FedEx, private companies, are better run than the Post Office, a federal agency!
He's so predictable. Here's Obama's plan:
– Attack people who disagree, create enemy.
– Only gloss over details so his stated position is undebateable
– Use "folksy" humor
– Express urgency
– Have questions planted
– let media gush
– finish by demonizing opponent and arguing you want "change" but it won't cost anyone anything.
where all those people behind him that got the email to show up...for the stage..yes staged town hall meeting!
Why is the single payer system a bad word in the USA?
It works in Canada and you would be hard pressed to find anyone with any serious complaints about our single payer one tier Universal Healthcare system that covers every Canadian equally and costs only 10% of our GDP.
You have a perfect example to follow but instead prefer to take shots at our system. Want to save your economy? I suggest you follow our lead. We have over 50 years of experience. No need to experiment and it works. Ask yourself. Why have some doctors moved to the USA to continue their practice – higher income of course. Use your common sense people.
Come republicans....get a hold of yourselves!
Are you upset because our POTUS is fighting to bring accountability to the "lowly and poor" healthcare industry? These poor healthcare organizations make so little money while providing everyone with care they can always depend on. What planet do you guys live on?
Sorry...you people need to turn off Rush for a minute and look at the situation objectively
It's hilarious to hear the Party of Torture and Wiretaps crying about "big government" and "takeovers". Govt. always grows larger on the Republican watch–Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. None of them–none–left a balanced budget. They don't object to big government, just one that tries to help people. Now they're talking about Civil War–yep, they lost an election, so they're going to resort to treason. This from the folks who passed the Patriot Act. Let them keep talking–and watch more states turn blue in 2010.
Can he tell his backers like SEIU (service union), ACORN, Black Panthers to quit attacking PHYSICALLY people who disagree with Obama? What's with his "enemy list"? Why does he want to plan cookies on our computers? Can you imagine if this was W? Evrery liberal would be freaking out. Obama...biggest disappointment
Why can't everyone take a deep breath and realize that no one is trying to bankrupt the country or kill all the old people. I am a proud Democrat that even though I thought Bush as an horrible President never thought he would intentionally try to hurt the country. Why don't your hard line Republicans give Obama the same respect and say you don't agree with this part of the plan or that part instead of acting like hateful idiots. I'm behind you 100% Mr. President. Keep up the good work...
I see people throw around terms like fascism and socialism, I highly doubt most of the people using such words have any idea what they really mean.
But if they are so opposed to health insurance reform, and say it's socialism, should go ahead and pass their medicare and medicaid cards forward, cause you are taking advantage of socialism.
Are you retired and collecting SSI benifits, well you need to go ahead and send that check right back to the goverment right now, cause if you don't think I deserve the chance to be able to buy insurance for me and my family, then I don't believe for one second that I should have to pay my hard earned taxes for you to live out your golden years complaining about what the goverment does,
Resident Obummer you are the scare tatic. Wil change it in 2012!
President Obama made all those fear mongering ignorant types look small and ridiculous. Well done. Can you imagine the majority of those yelling about keep the "government out of my medicare" do not even know that medicare is 100% government run? Republicans have invested in the ignorance of the American people for so long they take it for granted.
The biggest benefit in this health care reform is to have people keep their benefit plan even if they lose their jobs as long as they pay the same rate. That is huge. Most people can scramble to keep paying for their benefits which often cover all family members. The other big benefit is to forbid insurance companies from denying benefit based on pre-existing conditions. On the basis of those two benefits alone every American should support this initiative. Forget the death panels nonsense.
Now if only CNN can stop feeding us with all those lunatic ignorant rants over and over again and at least give us reasonable arguments and debate we could be heading somewhere. I wouldn't hold my breath.
Campaignor in Chief!!!
This president is a out of his league. He should leave the Presidency to the grown ups.
I cannot afford my employer provided healthcare and I work for UNITEDHEALTH GROUP. Competition is healthy.
No, "Mr. President", what you and your fellow dimwits like Pelosi are trying to cram down our throats right now is far, FAR scarier than the status quo. It does NOTHING to deal with the issues.
But hey, this is right out of the Obama playbook. People don't roll over belly up and accept every single thing he wants, and he turns to the fear mongering. The real fear is we've got another 3 1/2 years of this failure until we can vote him out and then get to real change.
I had to laugh- the president wanted to hear confrontation from people who are concerned about the health care-oops health insurance plan. It was orchestrated by the White House. The people were basically hand picked- people who "love" Obama. I am from NH and a lot of people are not happy about this plan. Obama made sure he had his groupies there and have it at a place that is the most liberal area in NH. What a joke! And the make up of the people looked like they were from Mass. or somewhere down south. Have you ever been to NH- it doesn't look like that!
keep the government out of my bank account!!!
News reports about the health care town hall meetings seem to focus to a disproportionate degree on the 'angry mobs' yelling at their fellow citizens and elected officials. I would like to hear more of the thoughtful dialogue, from both sides of the debate - real questions about what is actually contained in the various bills currently in the House and Senate. Please, CNN, help to elevate this important conversation rather than provide free publicity to those who seek to stifle it.