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Obama’s visit and the raging healthcare reform debate

by Keith Barber

No one commands a room quite like President Obama. The president’s brilliance as a speaker and statesman was on full display during his visit to Raleigh’s Broughton High School last week to promote his reform plan for America’s health care system. To say the president received a warm response from the thousands jammed inside the school’s gymnasium would be an understatement. Anticipation was high as 11:45 a.m. approached — the president was about 20 minutes behind schedule. When a Secret Service agent placed the presidential seal on the lectern around noon, the crowd cheered. When the president actually entered the building, the crowd let out a thunderous roar, and Obama accepted the applause with grace and his trademark low-key, cool demeanor. “I am so excited to be back in Raleigh, to be back in North Carolina,” Obama said. “This is a community and a state that has been so good to me.” Obama carried North Carolina by a mere 14,000 votes in the Nov. 4 general election, but there was no hint of opposition at Broughton, the first of two town hall meetings organized by the White House on July 29. However, on the other side of town, Americans for Prosperity, a libertarian group, held a “Hands Off My Health Care” rally for “free market health care solutions” to the challenges the healthcare system currently faces. “We believe people in North Carolina will not be persuaded to support a government-run healthcare system that will require billions in new taxes and does not offer free-market health care solutions,” Dallas Woodhouse, the group’s state director, stated in a press release.

Since the White House began pushing its proposal to reform the nation’s healthcare system, opposition forces have quickly aligned. On Monday, Woodhouse and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx attended a Healthcare Rally organized by the Forsyth County Republican Party at the Golden Corral restaurant in Winston-Salem. The rally against Obama’s healthcare reform plan met with opposition. A group of supporters for Obama’s plan picketed the rally organized by Americans for Prosperity. “We completely threw off stride the high-financed, well-rehearsed road show of the anti-health care folks,” said Winston-Salem City Councilman Dan Besse in a press release. “They rolled into town with their expensive bus and sound system, multiple paid staff, mass-produced signs and tame Congressional representatives in tow as usual. They expected to be the only voice in town. They were wrong.” The battle over a government-backed health care plan has been waged on the airwaves and in the streets. The Obama administration had originally hoped for Congress to pass reform legislation before its August recess, but took a different tack. As proposed bills languished in committees, the administration said it would give congressional leaders a chance to take their message on healthcare reform to their constituents during the recess and begin the legislative push in September. One thing everyone can agree upon is that change in the healthcare system is necessary. More than 46 million Americans are uninsured, so we all know someone who isn’t covered. For the uninsured, one trip to the hospital could put them in deep debt. Obama’s plan isn’t perfect, but if the other side has a better option, I’d like to hear it. And for the opposition groups that label the president’s plan as “socialized medicine,” I wonder if they’ve ever heard of Medicare and Medicaid. If Americans for Prosperity wish to be true to their ideals of limited government, perhaps they should hold rallies to abolish Medicare and Medicaid. I wonder how many seniors would turn out for those events. Ican think of two people right off the top of my head struggling withtheir healthcare coverage or lack thereof. They represent two largesegments of American society. My grandmother is 89 years old. Yearsago, she purchased Medicare supplemental insurance, otherwise known asMedigap insurance. It helps cover the health care costs not covered byMedicare, but her premiums have practically doubled in the past fiveyears. Obama addressed escalating costs during his appearancein Raleigh. “If we do nothing, I can almost guarantee you your premiumswill double over the next 10 years because that’s what they did overthe last 10 years,” Obama said. My friend Nancy is a Pulitzerprize-winning journalist who was laid off by The New York Times lastyear. Nancy is one of the nearly 29,000 US journalists who have losttheir jobs since January 2008. When Nancy lost her job, she also losther health insurance. Nancy said she’s counting on Congress to step upto the plate and pass a reform bill that covers those who lost theirinsurance through no fault of their own. During the town hall meetingat Broughton, Obama said it comes down to a simple choice for theAmerican people: maintain the status quo or take a bold, new approach. Obamachampioned his new plan as one that would “bring costs down; improvequality and affordability for every American when it comes to theirhealth care; and will help get our exploding deficits under control.” Obamadispelled the notion that his plan was “some government takeover ofhealth care,” but rather a solution to a healthcare system that couldpotentially bankrupt our nation, and that currently denies the basichuman right of quality care to nearly 50 million Americans.

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