President Obama Pushes for Health Care Reform, Gets Challenged to Debate by College Student At GJ Town Hall Meeting

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

President Barack Obama held a town hall meeting in Grand Junction Saturday, continuing his push for health care reform and giving a few lucky audience members a chance to go toe-to-toe with him.

Nearly a year after making his first trip to the Grand Valley, President Barack Obama was back with a strong message about health care reform.

"We've got to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity," said Obama. "And health insurance reform is a key pillar of that new foundation."

In this, his third town hall meeting of the week, the President discussed the issues of lifetime caps on health insurance coverage and mounting out-of-pocket expenses Americans are having to pay for health care -- laying out plans to ban those caps and set a limit on how much insurance companies could charge for out-of-pocket expenses.

But the focus quickly changed to a tune Americans have grown used to hearing from the President: this is not a government takeover of health care.

"I don't want the government meddling in your health care," said Obama. "But the point is I don't want insurance company bureaucrats in your health care either."

The President says when it comes to finding a solution to the problem there's "no silver bullet," but says a potential answer could lie here in the Grand Valley with Rocky Mountain Health Plans.

"I know there's some skepticism, how are you going to save money in the health care system?" said Obama. "You're doing it here in Grand Junction."

He says skepticism is a healthy part of this emotional debate. But he went on the attack when it came to what he calls scaring the American public with bad information -- specifically targeting the issue of so called "death panels" opponents of the plan continue to talk about.

"For all the scare tactics out there, what's truly scary is if we don't do anything," said Obama.

After some brief remarks, the President rolled up his sleeves and took questions from a select few in the in the crowd of 1,600 people -- one of which was CU Boulder student Zach Lahn, who asked him how private insurance companies could realistically compete with the federal government backed public option and then challenged the President to an Oxford style debate.

"We are working on a series of proposals that address the questions you're raising," Obama responded, after saying he was glad to see a young American engaged and challenging the President to a debate. "I believe we can work them out."

Lahn says while he appreciated the opportunity to ask his question, he believes the President's response was too vague.

"I haven't been getting what I wanted and I'm leaving here with that same feeling," said Lahn.

Montrose resident Maria Wells, who asked the President about what the plan would do for people seeking treatment outside their community, says that wasn't the case with her.

"I really do believe he answered the questions to the people to the best of his beliefs," said Wells.

The President says he expects to have a bill on his desk he can sign into law by the end of this year.

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