Obama on health care reform: ‘I need your help’
grand junction free press
GRAND JUNCTION – Last time Barack Obama was in Grand Junction, he came as a presidential candidate.
Now as president, Obama was back in town Saturday – this time to host the last of three town hall meetings he’s held this week on health care reform.
A crowd of 1,700 from all over the state packed Central High School gymnasium for a more intimate type format with the president, which included a question and answer session from random audience members.
No formal “Hail to the Chief” ushering Obama in, he sauntered to the stage amidst applause after a brief introduction by Nathan Wilkes, whose son was born with hemophilia in 2003.
Wilkes and his family have insurance but after nearing the $1 million cap on their policy, the family faced troubling times.
Obama tied in Wilkes story to focus Saturday’s theme on growing out-of-pocket expenses and growing co-pays and deductibles for those insured.
After introducing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Rep. John Salazar, Sens. Udall and Bennet and Gov. Ritter, Obama delved immediately into the reason for his visit.
“If you want a different future, a brighter future, I need your help,” he said.
On the course America’s on, Medicare and Medicaid will be in the red in 10 years; 14,000 people per day will continue to lose their health insurance; and those with insurance will continue to experience skyrocketing costs, and no better coverage or health care to show for it, he said.
“We’re going to fix it when we pass health care reform this year,” he said to a burst of applause.
Obama also addressed the growing sentiment that the reform bill will lead to government-run health care.
“If you like your health care plan you keep it … I don’t want government meddling in your health care plan but then again I don’t want insurance company bureaucrats meddling in your health care.”
The president also realizes this plan won’t necessarily please both sides of the political aisle.
“I can’t make everyone happy is the bottom line … if we keep on doing what we are doing, we are in a world of hurt … we can’t afford to do what we are doing now.”
A gentleman in the audience remarked on all the misinformation – mainly from detractors – going around about health care reform. It opened the door for Obama to address “death panels.”
“The notion that I ran for public office to go around pulling the plug on grandma … arguments like that are dishonest.”
“Because we’re getting close, the fight is getting fierce” critics are fighting back by trying “to scare the American people. “What is truly scary is if we do nothing,” he said.
The bill that Obama is pushing through Congress will cost taxpayers $800-$900 billion over 10 years. He said that two-thirds of it can be paid by eliminating waste in the current system.
Obama also believes it can be done without adding to the deficit.
“If you’re tired of this crazy spending in Washington, then you more than anyone should care about health care reform,” he said to the audience.
For someone confused about the health care issue, today’s town hall meeting proved enlightening.
“I think he answered a lot of questions I had. It’s now clear in my mind,” said Kim Warne of Grand Junction.
Prior to attending the meeting, Warne didn’t really understand the whole issue.
“It’s a lot to digest. His answers put all of it into perspective better,” Warne said.
Outside of Saturday’s town hall gathering, hundreds of folks gathered with signs – many of them nonticket holders welcoming the president, and just as many there to protest Obama and health care reform – several of those came from the 10 a.m. “Hands Off My Health Care Rally” held at Lincoln Park.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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