Obama Presses Health Reform Case at Va. Town Hall’

Posted July 1, 2009 at 2:43pm

President Barack Obama outlined his plans for reforming health care during a town hall meeting at Northern Virginia Community College on Wednesday.

Fielding questions from the audience and responding to queries submitted via YouTube and Twitter, Obama spoke of the urgency of reducing the rapidly swelling cost of health care, an issue he said spoke to “who we are as a country.—

The president has turned repeatedly to the town hall format to argue for a health care system overhaul, including a prime-time event last week televised from the East Room of the White House.

Obama spent the first portion of Wednesday’s event speaking of the various challenges his administration faces — including two foreign wars and an educational system in severe disrepair — before warning of a “slow steady decline— if lawmakers do not swiftly address health care reform.

“We’ve got to stop clinging to the broken system that doesn’t work,— Obama said.

Obama stressed the need for a “health insurance exchange— that would provide a “one-stop shop— for consumers to compare the prices and benefits of various plans — including what’s been called a public option — none of which would discriminate based on medical history.

He said this would help small businesses keep costs to a minimum, and would also provide a safety net for those who switch jobs or are self-employed.

Obama called for a digital database of medical records to reduce medical errors, investing money in preventive measures, and making more efficient a health care system that “automatically equates expensive care— with better treatment.

Responding to concerns about the potential costs of overhauling health care, Obama spoke of reallocating money currently spent on “unwarranted subsidies— to medical insurers and of bolstering revenue, which he said would generate some $950 billion over the next 10 years.

“[Health care reform] has got to be deficit neutral over the next 10 years,— Obama said.

Obama repeated his call for a cap on itemized deductions as his preferred alternative to taxing employees’ health benefits.

Responding to a video question, Obama dismissed a single-payer system as not viable given how many are dependent on their employers to provide insurance.

“For us to transition completely from a business-based system of private insurance to a single-payer system could be hugely destructive,— he said.

Obama repeatedly invoked the importance of affecting significant change quickly, cautioning against “the cost of doing nothing.—

“If we don’t do anything, the costs are going to keep on rising,— he said.