BELGRADE, Montana (CNN) - Fixing the nation's ailing health-care system requires both improving health insurance practices and reducing the costs of treatment, President Barack Obama told a largely supportive Montana audience Friday.
Obama sought out questions from skeptics of his proposed health-care overhaul at his second of three town hall meetings this week to reach out to the American public on his top domestic priority for 2009.
One man who identified himself as a proud National Rifle Association supporter and believer in the Constitution in the traditionally conservative stronghold asked how the government would pay to expand health insurance coverage to 46 million uninsured people.
"You can't tell us how you're going to pay for this," said the questioner. "The only way you're going to get the money is to raise our taxes. That's the only way you can do that."
Obama responded with his oft-repeated explanation for how two-thirds of the cost of overhauling health care - estimated at about $900 billion over 10 years - would come from eliminating waste and improving efficiency in the current system that includes the government-run Medicare and Medicaid programs for the elderly and impoverished.
The rest would have to come from new revenue, he agreed with the questioner, and he called for reducing the amount of tax deductions that people making more than $250,000 a year can make on their income taxes.
"If we did that alone, just that change alone ... that would raise enough to pay for health-care reform," Obama said, noting that would meet his election campaign pledge to avoid any tax increase on people earning less than $250,000 a year.
However, Obama said some taxes would have to be raised, and the crowd applauded when he said he believes people with more money, like himself, ought to pay a heavier burden.
"We've got to get over this notion that we can have something for nothing," Obama said. "That's how we got into this deficit and this debt in the first place."
In reference to emotional and heated debate at some other town hall meetings across the country in recent weeks, Obama told the man, "I appreciate your question, the respectful way you asked it, and by the way, I also believe in the Constitution."
Obama noted there is more work to be done, with Congress seeking to merge at least four bills, along with a possible compromise agreement being negotiated by Democratic Sen. Max Baucus and five other members of his Senate Finance Committee, into a single bill in September.
Another questioner chosen when Obama asked for a skeptic identified himself as an insurance provider who wanted to know why Obama and Democrats are vilifying the insurance industry in the health-care debate. Earlier in the meeting, Obama described what he called discriminatory practices by insurance companies that dropped coverage of people who became sick or refused to cover those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Obama noted some insurance companies are contributing to the reform debate, but said others are spending millions of dollars to try to defeat any health-care legislation. For a health-care overhaul to work for everyone, he said, it has to ensure all Americans are covered so that insurance companies have incentive to participate.
They won't be able to exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions or "cherry pick" healthy people while refusing coverage for sick people, Obama said, so increasing the total numbers covered will be the enticement.
On Saturday, Obama will hold another town hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, before vacationing in some national parks with his family next week.
In addition, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama will hold "some events not yet announced" in coming days.
While Obama has said consensus can be reached on health-care reform, contentious town hall meetings held by lawmakers around the country have created a different impression.
The White House, and many Democrats in Congress, hope that by building support in the West, the president can start to turn the tide. Though the region is largely Republican, Obama made some inroads in the latest election. He won in Colorado and lost by just a slim margin in Montana.
Obama's town hall events are just part of a larger Democratic strategy for winning support in the region.
The Democratic National Committee began a TV ad this week promoting the president's health-care plan. A committee spokesman told CNN the ad will run on national cable as well as on local cable in New Hampshire, Montana, Colorado and the District of Columbia.
The group Families USA, which supports the president's plan, also launched a new campaign Thursday that includes an ad running in a dozen states - among them Montana and Colorado.
But groups opposed to the president's plan have their own campaigns.
One voter in Livingston, Montana, not far from where the president spoke in Belgrade, summarized the kinds of concerns that she and many others in the region have.
"I believe that there is a health-care crisis, I really do," Sonja McDonald, who voted for Obama in 2008, told CNN's Ed Henry on Thursday. "Do I believe that the government needs to be more involved? No!"
Henry met McDonald at a clinic that gets half its funding from taxpayers.
"The government being involved is fine," McDonald said. "It's just ... when they try and overstep, when they try to say, 'No, this is what needs to be done.'"
When is he going to stop saying the money will saved by eliminating waste in Medicare?? The CBO, which by the way is not tied to any political party, has clearly stated what the cost is going to be over 10 years and that is 1 trillion dollars. Please stop tellingthe people lies......
Before Obama used to say "We" or " Obama administration" now it is "Me", "Myself", and "I".
Most of the uninsured in this country are here illegally anyway. Send them back. The illegals is the reason health care is so expensive now. Let them die if they are trying to use health care in this country. They want health care go the he11 home!
I am pretty sure I saw smoke and flames on Obamas pants today , fix all the other mangled goverment programs before screwing with my health.
I'm a young black republican and I believe in health care reform, but it must be the RIGHT health care reform. Not this crap they are trying to foist upon us.
It is amazing that so many Americans show up at town hall meetings to defend big insurance and the greedy medical industrial complex. From their actions I can see that most are suffering from severe mental disorders, a sure sign that our current health delivery system sucks!
Here's an idea. Sense some of or senators believe the insurance companies are doing enough. How about all of you out there with the bills the insurance companies didn't pay, make a copy , put your senators address on it and send it to him/her with this note
Hello senator _______ . since you believe our health care system is doing so well that no changes are nessary. I have enclosed the invoice for the uncovered portion your system failed to cover. Now that you have the invoice , you assume full responsibility for the invoice and I will direct any collection agencies to your office for further collection.
Obama's town meeting was rigged, HE DIDNT ALLOW PEOPLE WITH REAL QUESTIONS IN. OBAMA IS ALL LIES. LIES AND MORE LIES.
Why don't you cut the waste and inefficiencies first. Then we can truly see how much money we have to work with.
Obama lies and the blind keep following without looking for the truth.
“A largely supportive Montana audience”
That is a good way to describe a hand picked crowd complete with a couple of “skeptics”.
The propaganda machine rolls on…
It's Free Market Capitalism, not Free Market Socialism that made this country great and financially powerful. You can't complain about how companies and wealthly individuals are making so much money, and complain that the middle class and the poor are suffering because you feel the playing field isn't equal. Nothing is equal in this World, and life is not predictably fair.
If it weren't for entrepreneurialism and a capitalistic society, you wouldn't be able to fund all these social and entitlement programs, and offer everything from Government funded education to food stamps, welfare, etc, etc, etc.
What the h*ll do you people want? You are either on board for free market capitalism, or more taxes less benefits and freedoms with Government controlled social and financial engineering. You have to choose, you can't have both!
Go Obama, we are praying for Gods wisdom, guidiance and protection on your adminstration in these testy times. Amen
AMERICANS are beyond IGNORANT.
When the economy is GREAT, everyone claims we don't need healthcare.
When the economy sucks, everyone cries the blues about how to pay for healthcare.
AMERICANS ARE NOTHING BUT A BUNCH OF SELFISH WHINERS!!!
THEY COMPLAIN ABOUT EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING.
Maybe President Obama should just let the country go to HELL so that everyone opposing healthcare and anything else can sit back and suffer the consequences of their own STUPIDITY when their own families SUFFER!!!!
AMERICANS DO NOTHING BUT COMPLAIN, BUT THEY NEVER HAVE ANY SOLUTIONS!!
Doing a great job Mr President on health care. Don't back down. that is why other countries hate us here because we have so much hate over here and Americans are spoiled like the world owe us something. Yes, I am patriotic and I am gonna support our president but alot of old American white people should be ashamed of themselves for not supporting your American president especially when you claim you are an American, you want your country back, and aren't supportive of other races. That's why You should take a hard look at yourselves and act positive towards healthcare reform. We need to educate the old people because they don't understand whats going on when the president is helping them
This guy a is jerk. His teleprompter gives same talk every time. Everybody is fed up. When NRA guy asked a question, he said it is a good question but he could not answer it. He just wants to make an impression that it is a good question but where is the answer. Ignorant, idiot.
The president has yet to say which of the 5 plans presently in congress he supports. He has not set forth an outline of the major provisions of whichever bill he says he supports. He has not, as far as I know, even read "the bill." He has not explained how he will save any money. No bill covers all of the uninsured. He has not reached out to Republicans as he promised he would. The nebulous health care reform offered by congress is opposed by more people than support it.
Other than that, the President has done a good job on health care reform.
We need it. Just not run by government, which runs NOTHING efficiently.
Classic Obama campaign exhibition!
Teleprompter, pre-selected audience etc. What a joke!
Liberals living in a bubble! Wake up Obama and listen to the people that elected you and stop the attacks on everyday Americans that oppose you! They are now in the majority.
Health reform will create jobs. Small businesses will start popping up all over because people will not have to stay working for someone else because they will lose their health insurance if they leave. They especially can't leave now and take a chance starting a new business if they or someone in their family has a medical condition that will keep them from getting other insurance.
If healthcare reform goes through people will not have to work for someone else to get affordable health insurance. Entrepreneurialship will flourish! I think it will be the best thing that has happened to this country in a long time.
go president obama.i am totally backing you up!keep up the good work...
Montana a class act. What did Montana do that the rest of the country couldn't or wouldn't? They had a CONVERSATION, they voiced their CONCERNS, they allowed information to be exchanged.
I have insurance and was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. For all of you out there saying "NO" riddle me this ~ Who will help me pay my bills or provide me with the care I need should my current insurance disappear? Furthermore, how many times does one need the insurance company to deny them before they decide that they want better?
1) Obama doesnt give us health care reform. Congress does.
2) I love people saying how this is the best administration in 100 years, the best president in our history, etc. I am sure its the same people making comments about how its impossible to make judgements about success when the "First 100 Days", "second Hundred Days" (stupid markers of success even in my "radical right wing" opinion) are discussed. Love the flip flopping of the left side of the aisle...too bad the American people are continually duped by it.
Hang in there Obama!!! YOU GOT MY SUPPORT!!!!