August 14th, 2009
05:10 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama takes health care push to Montana

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=" Obama sought out questions from a largely supportive Montana audience Friday."]

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.'"

Filed under: Health care • President Obama
soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. daisy

    The Sonja MacDonald dialogue is a shining example of what all the fuss is about.

    People are just afraid...even if they're not sure what it is they're afraid of anymore.

    August 14, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  2. addon

    Man....President Obama knocked the critics off their "beef stool". Their dunce caps were all over the place.

    Here is a brief snipet: ....if we in the US pay twice as much as other developed nations; how come we can't cover the 16% of our society with insurance if we simply pay what we should in healthcare? How simple is that?

    ...and one thing the Pres. didn't say: We should insure everyone because I don't want my child attending public school with a child that has H1N1 because they can't see a doctor.

    Its dumb to oppose Healthcare reform

    August 14, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  3. MJ

    Great PR! Can not believe Americans are buying this! This is Socialized Health Care! Government has proven that it can not run business! Why are you so eager to let them take over your health care!

    August 14, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  4. They Already Have "Death Panels"; They're Called Health Insurance Company Employees

    Thank you Mr. President. Your courage in the face of the hate eminating from the right side of our political spectrum is steadfast.

    August 14, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  5. Yvonne - Port St Lucie

    Obama is doing a superb job, he is marching ahead with his promise to the voters. Health care reform is needed. As the old saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy.

    God bless America.

    August 14, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  6. joe m

    i'll believe the no tax increase promise when i see it on paper and signed by the president and available for everyone to see. it also would not hurt if the promise comes with penalties for the president and his party if it is broken.

    August 14, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  7. More Commonsense

    Only clueless American citizens voted for President Obama AND anything and everything that he proposes.

    Many of the provisions in ObamaCare are crafted towards universal, government-run, single-payer heath insurance despite Obama's misleading, but carefully calibrated statements. Only naive liberal Utopians believe the Federal government can run healthcare more efficiently and effectively than than private industry.

    53% of the voting electorate is not a mandate for a hyper-partisan liberal healthcare reform bill that will eventually radically REPLACE our current healthcare system, provide free healthcare to all Americans-legal and illegal, and ration healthcare just like Medicare.

    Americans want a FIX to escalating costs and to improve quality with free market, but regulated, capitalist solutions, not heavy regulations, subsidies, more free entitlements, and future increased taxes.

    August 14, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  8. Jake

    Start by looking at lawyers and malpractice suits, then go on to drug costs. If both are controlled, bet you can save a bundle. The current plan is bad, bad bad. If it were goo, the congress would join.

    August 14, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  9. Cube

    I just saw on the BBC report that the British people are asking American Conservatives to stop telling lies about their National Health Care System.
    Even the British Conservatives are annoyed that their country's program is being lied about when they have a longer and healthier life expectancy than Americans.

    August 14, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  10. mother and sister of a soldier

    I listened to our pres and once again, will admit he is an eloquent speaker. You must pay close attention and read between the lines to understand him. I particularly found it distasteful that he blames this bills problems on special interests group. After all, isn't his cabinet and czars former lobbyists? I am not dumb, you fail to have definitive answers, numbers change every time you take center stage and I do not want your bill. This is not influenced by anything or anyone. Get it! I happen to work for what I have and am proud of it.

    Now CNN, let's see if you post this since you so frequently do not print anything repubs have to say.

    August 14, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  11. victor0803

    We need health care reform. Please Mr President give it to us!

    August 14, 2009 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  12. ME IN FL

    This country needs health care reform pronto!!! It is good that we have Pres Obama that cares for the American people. If we are the greatest country in the world we should have the best heath care in the world!!! Every American should have the right to healthcare!!!!!!

    August 14, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  13. ellen collier

    You go President Obama,
    Just tell the truth and we'll be there to support you. Don't let these loud mouths shut down the message. We need health care reform now ( geez or was that 40 years ago) hopefully with a Public Option.. We all need affordable Healthcare and just because you or the company you work for can afford it now doesn't mean that will be there for you next year.. The lies will all be exposed soon I hope. Ex Gov Sarah Palin had a Health Care Decisions Day in Alaska April 16th 2008.. Alaska Statute 13.52..It was called " A day to raise public awareness of the need to plan ahead for healthcare decisions, related to end of life care & medical decision making ." Yes a day for the "death panels" They are all so fake–Do not listen to there lies!!

    Ellen in SLC,utah

    August 14, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  14. starleo14672

    I watched the President today at Montana and I am so proud of the people in Montana , they were very much interested in health care reform,as were the people of New Hampshire,if only the rest of the town halls we have seen could conduct themselves as well,. I thought the President answered the questions very well, I wish the media would stop being so negative towards the president. He had a big mess dumped on him and honestly if for not for the all the negativity dumped on him has done a excellent job. Can we ignore the Rush Limbaugh's and the Sarah Palin comments what good do they do, and the media just champions there ugly words. This President will not fail if we the American people stand with him after the last 8 yrs and the trillions in debt left to us as taxpayers he had no recourse than to do what he could to lift this economy. I ask every American to ignore the ugly American and be there with a hard working law abiding American.

    August 14, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  15. Gerry

    He is a good talker but will not keep his promises.

    August 14, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  16. Tomiwa

    What Americans should be doing is to thank God everyday for giving them somebody like Obama. No such leader exist in this World.

    The health care issue is a very simple problem which has been made so complex by the status co and opponents of the present government who are just in the business of criticizing everything he does and he doesn't do. After having their 8 years of destruction.

    Health care being a social services, should never be a business where by some insurance company or drug company seek to maximize profits, give themselves yearly targets to increase profit and running very expensive adverts for their products and services.

    That is why we have these issues and that is why i think if government steps in to regulate activities of all the parties involved, we will not only have quality health care for everybody, it will also be very affordable.

    August 14, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  17. tonyt

    However, on April 16th 2008, then Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed some of the same end of life counseling she now decries as a form of euthanasia. In a proclamation announcing “Healthcare Decisions Day,” Palin urged public facilities to provide better information about advance directives, and made it clear that it is critical for seniors to be informed of such options:

    WHEREAS, Healthcare Decisions Day is designed to raise public awareness of the need to plan ahead for healthcare decisions, related to end of life care and medical decision-making whenever patients are unable to speak for themselves and to encourage the specific use of advance directives to communicate these important healthcare decisions. [...]

    WHEREAS, one of the principal goals of Healthcare Decisions Day is to encourage hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and hospices to participate in a statewide effort to provide clear and consistent information to the public about advance directives, as well as to encourage medical professionals and lawyers to volunteer their time and efforts to improve public knowledge and increase the number of Alaska’s citizens with advance directives.

    WHEREAS, the Foundation for End of Life Care in Juneau, Alaska, and other organizations throughout the United States have endorsed this event and are committed to educating the public about the importance of discussing healthcare choices and executing advance directives.

    Though this proclamation is now deleted from the Alaska governor’s website, it shows that Palin’s current fear-mongering is purely political

    August 14, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  18. Cheryl Mitchell

    I think Obama is doing a great job, The republicans had eight years to do something. They did nothing and now they supposedly have all the answers. I applaud Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama for at least trying to do something. I pray for the souls of those people who have the so much hate for Barrack Obama

    August 14, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  19. Roger

    According to Obama "two-thirds of the cost of overhauling health care - estimated at about $900 billion over two years - would come from eliminating waste and improving efficiency in the current system that includes government run Medicare and Medicaid programs for the elderly and impoverished." Please Mr. Obama be more specific on these so-called savings and how do you intend to accomplish this. If there are savings in our current system now why don't we just do it. I find it hard to believe that we need legislation to improve efficiency. Stop the nonsense and tell us your real motive and objective. Here you are spending taxpayers money campaigning for a health program and even you don'it know what the Plan is - or at least you are not telling us. The last count there were three in the House and who knows how many in the Senate. Your credibility is sinking fast.

    August 14, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  20. Dennis

    I' d like to keep the coverage that I have. Am betting that if this passes I lose that coverage or pay substantially more for it than I currently do. This plan will hurt more people than it helps.

    August 14, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  21. Rob from MO

    Isn't it wonderful that we now have a president with the courage to address hostile questioners at public forums. GWB would hold staged town hall travesties, involving carefully screened Republican loyalists. Isn't it wonderful that we have a president who is sincerely trying to provide health care coverage to almost 50 million Americans who lack insurance. According to the Institute of Medicine about 144,000 Americans died during the 8 GWB years directly because of their lack of insurance. That's 40 times more than died of terrorist attacks. GO OBAMA!!!!

    August 14, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  22. Claudia in Houson

    This group of people came to learn, ask questions and listen for answers and they got them. Now if we can only get the misinformed to do the same and save them from the ignorance of those misinforming them. We've got a lot of smart misinformed people who can't hear the truth because of the many lies.

    August 14, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  23. starleo14672

    Rob of Charleston, S.C. I agree with your post he promised in his campaign to do this and he is trying to keep his word, these ugly Americans want their power back and are trying with everything to hit him hard if Obama doesn't get his health care reform it won't be because he didn't try, the media and the rightwingers and the right wing lobbyist did it not only to him but to there country that allow them to act like fools as they are. I wonder if he doesn;t get it what if everyone of us dropped our insurance and put the insurance business out of business

    August 14, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
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