Obama: Healthcare ‘key pillar’ in economic recovery

President Barack Obama took his healthcare town hall pitch to Colorado on Saturday, emphasizing his intent to allow Americans to keep their private healthcare as well as his goal to hold insurers accountable.

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The president stressed his healthcare reform effort is a “key pillar” in the country's economic recovery, and tried to soothe fears about the extent of the program.

“I don’t want government bureaucrats meddling in your healthcare, but the point is, I don’t want insurance company bureaucrats meddling in your healthcare either,” Obama said in the biggest applause line of his opening remarks.

Much of Obama’s opening was focused on a critique of the insurance industry, which Democratic leaders in the House have also worked to make the villains of the healthcare debate. Obama also criticized the industry in his weekly address on Saturday.

But Obama quickly ran into a questioner in Colorado who wondered how private insurance companies could compete if the government sets up a public insurance option, something Obama supports.

Obama again chastized broadcast media for reporting only the most contentious town halls, noting that several forums have featured civil exchanges that have not made the news. He made a similar point on Friday during a Montana town hall, saying television “loves a ruckus.”

The president also emphasized that “80 percent” of the American medical industry support his ideas, but compared his efforts to President Franklin Roosevelt's passage of Social Security in the 1930s and President  Lyndon Johnson's passage of Medicare in the 1960s, which he said were both opposed by special interests.

“Because we are getting close, the fight is getting fierce,” Obama said. “The history is clear: every time we are in sight of health insurance reform, the special interests fight back with everything they've got. They use their influence. They run their ads. They use their political allies to scare the American people... These struggles have always boiled down to a contest between hope and fear. That was true when Social Security was born.  That was true when Medicare was created.  It is true in this debate today.”

Before taking questions, Obama also stressed that Congress will pass a “common sense series of consumer protections,” stressing that most Americans will still carry private insurance with insurance reform.

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