President Barack Obama on Thursday launched a vigorous counterattack against opponents of his health care proposals, denying repeatedly that he wants to socialize medicine or that a government insurance option would lead to a government-run monopoly.
Obama appeared at a town hall-style event in Green Bay, Wis., where he offered some of the most detailed reasoning yet behind his approach to overhauling the health system.
The president is under attack for his embrace last week of a public option that Senate Democrats plan to include in health reform legislation scheduled to move through committee this month. Some opponents say the public option will lead to socialism in the health sector.
When you hear people say socialized medicine, I dont know anybody in Washington whos proposing it, Obama said, defining the term as the government completely running the system, as he said occurs in Great Britain.
Obama also said he does not want a single-payer system in which the government would be the sole insurer, saying this is not practical politically and would be disruptive because so many people already get their insurance through employers who use private insurance.
But he did note that there are some appealing things to a single-payer plan, adding that there are some countries where thats worked very well.
But he said he wants a public option that would establish the government as an alternative insurer to private plans and that can be used by those who cannot afford private insurance. He denied this would lead to government running your health system, calling such charges the usual politics found in Washington.
I dont know how clearly I can say this, Obama declared, noting his contention that people will be able to keep their private plans.
I dont know where people get this idea that I want to run stuff or that I want government to run stuff, he said, asserting as he has before that he has enough on his plate without taking on new responsibilities.
Republicans say a government takeover of the health system is exactly what Obama will end up supporting.
President Obama is in Wisconsin today pushing for rushed passage of a bill thats going to make health care more expensive for Americas middle class, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said.
The Democrats emerging bill raises taxes, Boehner said. It rations care and puts bureaucrats, instead of doctors and patients, in charge of medical decisions. It amounts to a government takeover of health care, and it would force millions of Americans off their own plans and into a government-sponsored plan.
Obama denied he was ideologically committed to any one approach and insisted he is open to new ideas. At one point, he indicated he would consider something other than a public option for the self-employed and small businesses.
They dont have the ability to pool their health insurance risk, Obama said. Thats where a public plan potentially comes in, or at least some mechanism to join a big pool.
Business groups have long advocated association health plans to help pool risks for small businesses and others.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, who briefed reporters aboard Air Force One, brushed off the decision of the American Medical Association to oppose Obamas health plan based on the presidents embrace of a public option. Obama will address the AMA in Chicago on Monday.
He knew at the beginning of this process that people would oppose and support different elements that were on and off the table, and this is just one part of the process, Burton said. Hes going to talk to the AMA on Monday and thinks that well be able to have an open and honest dialogue about the issues that were all very concerned about.
Among those greeting Obama in Green Bay was Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.), a doctor whose district includes the city.