[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/12/health.care.fears/art.health.care.cnn.jpg caption="The battle over health care reform has energized people on both sides of the debate."]
(CNN) - Beyond the noise of raucous crowds and angry protesters who have turned town hall meetings into shouting matches is genuine concern from ordinary citizens who are afraid that President Obama's health care proposals would only make things harder for them, experts say.
"The reason that we see these protests and people asking tough questions at town hall meetings is because they feel like the president is going to take something away from them. That motivates people. That gets them out," said Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.
Those fears were heard Tuesday at Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter's town hall meeting in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. "This is going to take away my freedom," charged one man who wanted assurance from Specter that the private option for health insurance would stay viable.
Specter repeated Obama's pledge, telling the crowd, "If you like your policy, you can keep it."
Acknowledging the skepticism at a town hall meeting Tuesday, Obama tried to alleviate fears that reform would take something away.
"I recognize there's an underlying fear here that people somehow won't get the care they need. You will have not only the care you need, but also the care that right now is being denied to you, only if we get health care reform. That's what we're fighting for," he said at the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, event.
Since his days on the campaign trail, Obama has promised the public that those who like their health insurance plans won't have to give them up, but he's stopped short of saying at what cost.
"I think that's the fear," said Diana Owen, an associate professor of political science and the director of American studies at Georgetown University. "Even though they are going to keep the plan, the plan is going to be at a much greater cost. And he's not been able to really allay that fear."