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Obama aims town hall health talk at those with insurance

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — A day before facing a potentially boisterous town hall in New Hampshire, President Barack Obama praised the spirited debate over his health care plans on Monday and predicted "sensible and reasoned arguments" would ultimately prevail in Congress.

Obama plans to pivot his message somewhat today, addressing people who already have insurance through their employers and highlighting how his proposals would affect them. The White House is retooling its message amid polls that shows Americans — especially those who have coverage — are skeptical of Democratic proposals to expand to cover many of the 50 million or more uninsured.

Concerns over Obama's health care reform proposal are heating up town hall meetings, chat rooms and radio shows in the United States — driving his poll numbers down and threatening the future of his highest domestic priority. While Congress is in recess for the month of August, lawmakers are hearing from constituents worried about divisive issues such as the government's role in health care and the costs of an overhaul.

Republicans say the heated debate is a sign of widespread public dissatisfaction with Obama's ideas. But with some of the anxieties spilling into angry disruptions and even threats, Democrats have accused Republicans of orchestrating the events to sabotage legislation. In an article published Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote: "Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American."

Obama stayed away from such provocative language.

"We are having a vigorous debate in the United States, and I think that's a healthy thing," he said. But, he said, the dynamic will change once the recess ends and the lawmakers — and the debate — return to Washington.

"I suspect that once we get into the fall and people look at the actual legislation that's being proposed, that more sensible and reasoned arguments will emerge. And we're going to get this passed," he said.

There also was an immediate response to Pelosi and Hoyer from House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. "To label Americans who are expressing vocal opposition to the Democrats' plan 'un-American' is outrageous and reprehensible," Boehner said.

Obama will face a town hall audience today in Portsmouth, N.H.

Critics answered on Web

The White House on Monday turned to its favorite tool — the Internet — to bolster President Barack Obama's push for health care overhaul and challenge misconceptions about Democratic plans.

The Web site, www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck, seeks to disprove several claims made by critics, including that proposed changes would result in rationing of care, euthanasia or end Medicare.

Obama aims town hall health talk at those with insurance 08/10/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 10, 2009 11:27pm]
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