President Barack Obama pitched his health care plan at a town hall meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Wednesday. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)
Raleigh - President Barack Obama came to North Carolina to launch a vigorous defense of his health care proposal Wednesday, saying the option of doing nothing would result in insurance premiums doubling for most Americans over the next decade.
Saying that there has been a lot of misinformation about his proposal, Obama said keeping the current system was a prescripton for escalating health care costs, a lack of insurance for people with pre existing conditions and businesses struggling to provide health care to employees.
He said his plan was being deliberately distorted by his critics.
"Nobody is talking about some government takeover of health care," Obama told a packed gymnasium at Broughton High School. "I'm tired of hearing that. I have been as clear as I can be. Under the reform I've proposed, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan. These folks need to stop scaring everybody."
Obama spoke for about an hour at what was billed as a town hall before a friendly audience of mainly supporters. About a third of his talk was a defense of his stimulus program, a third a defense of his health care plan, and a third questions from the audience.
The president took about a half dozen questions from audience members on topics such as family practice doctors, prescription drug prices and insurance costs for average Americans.
The talk was a hit with Willis Linder, 83, a retired New York City policeman living in Cary, who was glad to hear that the Obama plan would not effect his Medicare.
"I was concerned about it," Linder said.
Obama was greeted with picketers at several locations near the school and along the motorcade route downtown. They held signs with slogans such as "ObamaCare Wrong for NC, Wrong for The USA" and "Freedom Isn't Free, Neither Is Obamacare."
Obama's visit came at a time when North Carolina has been the focus of an intense lobbying campaign by both sides of the health care debate. The state is home to a number of moderate Democrats who are seen as persuadable and headquarters for some major pharmecuetical industries.
Congress was in session and none of the members joined Obama in Raleigh, including Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who is considered a key swing vote.
Gov. Beverly Perdue attended and was part of a small group that met privately with the president.