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. J

    He is open and honest as much as he can under the circumstance.
    They are many different version of bill still being work out.
    It's nice to see Adults talking, not a screaming, yelling unreasonable like other town hall meeting.

    August 14, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  2. Alfred E. Neumann

    Obama took his health care plan to Montana and now he can take it back!

    August 14, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  3. diane08

    When will people realize that the only reason Republicans are pushing so hard to stir up fear about health reform is because they are in bed with the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. We've known this since the Clinton administration. If reform passes, they loose out on all of the money that these industries are currently ripping off from the American people.

    Funny, for all of their talk about gov't spending and death squads, Republicans couldn't care less about the trillions of dollars we're spending on TWO senseless and winless wars, and the thousands of soldiers killed as a result. Never mind the fact that 80% of them are either collecting Social Security or Medicaid. I've never seen a bigger group of hypocrites in my life.

    August 14, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  4. U.S. Citizen

    Health Care Reform NOW!

    August 14, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  5. Simmy

    A three-fold cord is not easily broken......President Obama and a Unified Democratic Coalition, Supporters, and the Awesome Force......Republicans'only cause is to cause trouble....Democrats' cause is to deliver a healthcare bill (with a public option plan included) to the people......This bill will not slide into oblivion because of diabolical strategists.......

    After break, two roads will collide....Health care and Stimulus..
    Republicans knew this, and purposely pushed for a delay on healthcare......Now they will say they don't have time to deal with both....they won the delay because of Blue Dogs who continue to bite off their noses to spite their faces......I say to them, "wash off your paint and show Red.....

    August 14, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  6. Georgette

    And this score update following the N.H. and Montana town halls: Pres. Obama and intelligence 2, Republican moron opposition 0.

    August 14, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  7. Joanna

    I am very much in favor of healthcare reform, but I am not in favor of the proposals currently on the table. They fail to address what is driving up healthcare costs:

    1. A lack of price competition at the point of sale, i.e. consumers currently do not have a financial stake in what their doctors charge or tests doctors run resulting in hyper-inflation and unnecessary spending.

    2.The consolidation in the health insurance industry is stifling price competition among insurers resulting in 20% policy premium increases year over year across carriers. We need to create a system that fosters greater comptition by letting carriers compete across state lines.

    3. Tort reform that brings balance to malpractice punishment.

    Healthcare reform should not be about insuring the uninsured first. It should be about creating a healthcare infrastructure that puts an end to hyper-inflation of services and service fees. We need to get the cost of healthcare down before we add millions more into the system.

    August 14, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  8. Brian

    This is not about winning or losing. This healthcare debate is about this great country and what it has allowed for all those who have sought its shores.

    It is not just about the few it is about the collective, "love thy neighbor, do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

    In a country that has allowed exorbitant amounts of wealth to be created, all should have healthcare. There are millions of hard working Americans who do not have healthcare and cannot afford healthcare with the way the system is now and for those of us who work just as hard, but our situation does not allow for healthcare a public option makes since.

    Unfortunately our heathcare system is run by greedy people. Everyone is worried about Government getting their hands on healthcare, who do you think is running it now and making all the decisions; large insurance companies.

    As we have seen before there are people regardless of the plan, if it is thought of by a particular party then they are against it regardless if it is what is needed and good for the country. I always thought while Bush was leading us into war with Iraq that the people, like Limbaugh, who supported his decision would have crucified Bill Clinton had he made that very same decision. Stop the politics these are peoples lives we are talking about, this is not a game.

    So we have a choice, we can become informed with solid information and we can then make a decision, or we can allow ourselves to be tricked by fear mongers who have nothing but disdain for our President and would love nothing more but to see him fall.

    But we cannot, this is too important. We all have something to gain by reforming healthcare.

    August 14, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  9. health care reform now

    go ahead obama,we are behind 100%

    August 14, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  10. C W

    Thank you, Mr. President, for modeling civil behavior. Kudos to the good people of Montana, too, for asking tough questions and being respectful of the President.

    Health care reform NOW!

    August 14, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  11. james

    The western states like Montana are so conflicted. They act as if their taxes actually pay for the services they receive from the federal government, let alone support anyone outside the state. If it wasn't for the federal governement, they wouldn't even have paved roads or electricity.
    Agreed we need to hand hand it to this president. He doesn't shy away from the heat. I think we're finally getting used to thoughtful intelligence instead of threats and bullying from the executive branch.

    August 14, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  12. annie for Palin

    And yet we hear from another lying politician. HR3200 will do nothing but destroy our country!

    August 14, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  13. Tony In Largo, FL

    The political aides of Senators and Congressmen should be reading the blogs re: the Health Care Reform. They should then report back to their bosses that the majority of the people in this country support Health Care Reform and are rejecting the lies of the GOP and the sub-culture radio pundits who have hijacked the Republican Party.

    August 14, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  14. J

    I am a Canadian and I am watching and following this health care debates.
    all I have to say at the time like this is that "Thanks God! I am Canadian!"

    August 14, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  15. mike

    The Senate just removed the non-existent death panel provision from their bill.

    August 14, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  16. pat c

    yes we can!!!! Go Mr. President...we love you!!!!

    August 14, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  17. m smith

    Try listening to British and Canadian news . They think our health care is not as good as theirs. And wonder why we are making such a fuss. We have been sold a bill of goods that they have bad health care long waits. Try getting to see a specalist here and tell me that doesn't take a long time. If you dont' have a doctor try getting an appointment when you are sick. Who needs one a month later when you are feelin better. Wouldn't it be nice not to have to worrie about health care at all or how you where going to pay for a sick child. ?

    August 14, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  18. Four and The Door

    Yeah, put in a Federal Government bureaucracy to cut health care costs! That's not even funny. That will work no better than throwing government money at GM and Chrysler to keep them from going bankrupt!

    I hope America has learned by now. These guys don't do the numbers. They are completely irresponsible with our tax dollars. They never get the results they promise.

    August 14, 2009 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  19. axh

    I have good health insurance, I don't need the government in my health care!

    The government can't run itself, looking to spend millions of taxpayer monies on jets for themselves. True is they are not thinking of the American taxpayer, these officials just think of themselves.

    NO to this so-called reform!

    August 14, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  20. sue

    the people who are worried about death panels (fictional)
    If nothing is done , then aren't the uninsured given the only a death
    warrant by those who oppose coverage for them by hte radical right and the JUST SAY NO GOP.


    August 14, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  21. eolufemi

    Well done, and I appreciate the class and respect opponents of reform showed in Montana.

    August 14, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  22. Jon H

    LOL. I saw a British guy speak at a conference today and he had bad teeth. I wonder why.

    August 14, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  23. IS IT 2012 YET ??

    I only saw one or two real Montanans in that crowd. The NRA speaker saved Montana's reputation singlehandedly.

    August 14, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  24. Observant

    Obama, you just don't get it. We want jobs first... You said immigration can wait, I say healthcare reform can wait. Jobs first.

    August 14, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  25. Keith, CO

    I watched the town hall debate and it reminded me what a sane discussion looks like. Montana showed poise and respect.

    August 14, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
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