President brings health care fight to NC

July 29, 2009 5:54:14 PM PDT
Air Force One touched down right on schedule Wednesday as President Barack Obama came to Raleigh to explain to North Carolinians how a major reform of the country's health care system will help them.Click here for pictures of the President's arrival

The President made the gym at Broughton High School the backdrop for a speech on the economy and a town hall meeting on how he wants to change the way Americans get medical care.

Obama told the crowd that he wants consumer protections in any bill he would sign.

They include a requirement for insurers to set annual caps on how much they charge for out-of-pocket expenses, to fully cover routine tests to help prevent illness, and to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays the premium in full.

Insurers would be barred from refusing coverage because of pre-existing conditions, scaling back insurance for the very ill or denying children family coverage through age 26.

"We will stop insurance companies from denying you coverage because of your medical history," the President said. "I will never forget watching my own mother, as she fought cancer in her final days, worrying about whether her insurer would claim her illness was a preexisting condition so it could get out of providing coverage."

"What a lot of the chatter out there hasn’t focused on is the fact that if you’re an American who already has health insurance, the reform we’re proposing will provide you with more stability and security. Because the truth is, we have a system today that works well for the insurance industry, but it doesn’t always work well for you," said the President.

The President is struggling to get Congress to pass any kind of meaningful reform this year, and opposition has been vocal. Several groups help rallies in Raleigh Wednesday to show their displeasure with his proposals.

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Mister Obama told the crowd he'd seen the protestors in his remarks to the crowd, but he said there's a lot of misinformation out there, and big insurance companies and other opponents are scaring people with fears about "big government" in his calls for a public option - a government health care plan that would compete with private insurance.

"First of all, no one is talking about some government takeover of health care," the President said. "Under the reform I’ve proposed, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. And if you’re one of the 46 million Americans who don’t have coverage today, you will finally be able to get quality, affordable coverage."

He also pointed out that the federal government already runs government health care plans in Medicare and the VA plan for veterans. He said while the plans aren't perfect, the general level of satisfaction amongst seniors and veterans is high.

While the President's remarks on health care were expected, what was a surprise was he devoted the first 20 minutes of his speech to talking about the economy.

He talked about the fact that unemployment in North Carolina is over 10 percent and said he realized that while it appears the economy may be turning the corner, a lot of people are still suffering.

Still he took aim at critics who say he has done little except run up the deficit in trying to turn things around.

"So, we know the tough times aren’t over. But we also know that without the steps we have already taken, our troubled economy – and the pain it’s inflicting on North Carolina families – would be much worse," he said.

He said the bailouts of the banking and auto industries may not have been popular, they were the right thing to do.

"It has cost some money to do all this, although when I hear critics talk about out-of-control spending, I can’t help but remember that those same critics contributed to the $1.3 trillion deficit we inherited when I took office – a debt that is partially a result of two tax cuts that went primarily to the wealthiest few and a Medicare drug program, none of which was paid for," said Obama.

After his town hall meeting in Raleigh, the President was scheduled to fly on to Virginia for a second town hall meeting before returning to Washington.


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