Obama Criticizes Media Coverage, Insurance Companies During Montana Town Hall Meeting
President Obama kicked off a western trip today with a town hall meeting in Belgrade, Mont.
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Reuters: "U.S. President Barack Obama, pushing for healthcare reform during a trip to conservative Montana, said on Friday the country was 'held hostage' by insurance companies that deny coverage to sick people." In what Reuters described as a "half-work, half-play trip with his family," Obama will highlight the benefits of his "$1 trillion plan to overhaul the insurance industry, expand healthcare coverage and cut costs to consumers." Both protestors and supporters lined up outside the location of the President's first Montana town hall meeting. He made opening remarks and then took an hour's worth of audience questions. This meeting and another one in Colorado tomorrow will be "his second and third such events in less than a week, after a meeting in New Hampshire on Tuesday. They come as poll numbers reflect concern about the U.S. budget deficit and Republicans contend that the plan would be an expensive mistake" (Mason and Spetalnick, 8/14).
The Associated Press: "While hundreds demonstrated outside, there was no sign of protesters on the airstrip where Air Force One landed or inside the hangar at the airport near Bozeman. The crowd, estimated by the White House at about 1,300 people, was civil though Obama did get some pointed questions. One came from a man who called himself 'a proud NRA member,' referring to the National Rifle Association, and said he got most of his news from cable TV. 'You can't tell us how you're going to pay for this," the man said. "The only way you're going to get that money is raise our taxes.' Obama responded by saying he was right. "I can't cover another 47 million people for free. I can't do that. We're going to have to find money from somewhere." The president said "streamlining the system" and eliminating "subsidies" to insurance companies were possible ways to find funds (Sidoti, 8/14).
Politico: "It was another town hall and another well-mannered crowd for President Barack Obama as he took his pitch for health care reform to the Rockies, telling residents of a small town in this big Republican state that none of the insurance nightmares raised by opponents will come true." He said his intent was "not to vilify insurance companies," but added that he wants "to make sure 'certain practices that are very tough on people - those practices change.'" He also talked about how health insurance problems could hit anyone in an effort to rally support from people who already have coverage. He also "went out of his way to talk up the home-state Democratic Sen. Max Baucus" (Lee, 8/14).
ABC's Political Punch: The president commented on media coverage of the tempers that have flared during town hall meetings around the country. "'TV loves a ruckus,' he continued. 'What you haven't seen on TV and what makes me proud are the many constructive meetings going on all over the country. Everywhere -- everywhere across the country you're seeing people who are coming together and having a civil, honest, often difficult conversation about how we can improve the system. That's how democracy's supposed to work" (Tapper and Miller, 8/14).
The New York Times' Prescriptions blog reported earlier today that after the president's Montana town hall meeting -- about 4 pm Eastern Time-- the White House planned to hold an online video chat with seniors featuring the administration's health care czar, Nancy-Ann DeParle. Billed as the latest in a series of White House stakeholder discussions, Mrs. DeParle will take on "a group that is particularly concerned about the new legislation. Recent polls have shown that seniors are most resistant to changing the system and fear an overhaul will just add to the deficit. The discussion will also be a good opportunity for the administration to tamp down rumors spread by conservatives that Mr. Obama's legislation contains... government boards that would intervene in end-of-life decisions to reduce costs." Despite efforts to counter the idea, "the scares are sticking" (Lorber, 8/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.