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President Obama hopes to regain public support for his healthcare plan during town-hall meetings

11 08 09 - 14:18

Obama Heads to Town-Hall Meetings
By JANET ADAMY - The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will spend the week trying to convince Americans with health insurance that legislation in Congress would benefit them, holding three town-hall meetings, a venue where Democrats have faced loud complaints.

Mr. Obama plans to hold the town-hall meetings Tuesday in Portsmouth, N.H., Friday in Bozeman, Mont., and Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo. A White House official said participants wouldn't be screened to keep out opponents.

Mr. Obama, who has previously focused on cutting overall health spending, will now emphasize how the legislation would fix three specific problems, according to the White House official. An overhaul would end the practice of denying insurance coverage to people with a pre-existing illness; keep people from losing their coverage if they get sick; and protect Americans who face high out-of-pocket medical costs, the official said Mr. Obama would say.

The White House has been upstaged in recent days by a series of congressional town-hall meetings that turned rowdy after attendees shouted questions about the president's top domestic-policy priority. The official said cabinet members and other advisers would be dispatched to echo the president's message about fixing the three problems.

Republican lawmakers in general support two of the three changes Mr. Obama plans to emphasize: ending denials of coverage based on pre-existing illness and protecting the sick from losing their insurance. Insurers also have agreed to abandon these practices as long as lawmakers pass a new law requiring most people to carry insurance.

Republicans are hoping to capitalize on the unrest displayed at the meetings to highlight their discontent with other aspects of the health legislation, including the roughly $1 trillion price tag over 10 years and a proposed surtax on the wealthy that is part of a House bill.

"People...are very much concerned about the cost and the fact that their taxes could be raised," said Gail Gitcho, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

The Democratic National Committee, taking its cues from the White House, said it is mobilizing supporters to attend local meetings that have been dominated by health-overhaul opponents. Organizing for America, Mr. Obama's grass-roots advocacy group, has started sending locally targeted emails to notify supporters when their lawmaker is holding an event in their town.

Write to Janet Adamy at




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