Posted on 11 Aug 2009
In an attempt to curb opposition to his proposal to restructure the U.S. health care system and push back against what his advisers term false "scare tactics,": President Obama will hold three public town hall meetings this week.
Along the way, Obama will address specific health care topics -- none of them new, but each important, advisers said. Today, he plans to talk about people who are denied coverage because of preexisting conditions. On Friday, he is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in Bozeman, Mont., to discuss the plight of people dropped from their health insurance plans because of an illness. And at a third session on Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo., Obama intends to raise the subject of high out-of-pocket costs, such as co-payments and deductibles.
The stepped-up effort by the president comes as the Democratic National Committee and Organizing for America, a grass-root advocacy group set up as a successor to his campaign apparatus, are encouraging volunteers to fan out across the country to sway reluctant lawmakers to support the proposals now moving through Congress. Supporters are also being enlisted to show up at public events with members of Congress to counterbalance the sometimes angry outbursts from opponents.
White House aides said they hope that by giving voters specific guarantees about how their health insurance coverage will improve, they will both shift the debate and beat back some misconceptions. They said these range from the idea that Medicare benefits might drop to the allegation, made by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R), that the president intends to create a kind of "death panel" of government bureaucrats who would make life-ending decisions for patients.
On Monday, the White House launched a new online "Reality Check" on its Web site featuring administration officials rebutting critics' claims.
"There is a concerted viral whisper campaign from the opponents of health reform," White House Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said. "The PR playbook used to say that you ignored rumors like this, but we learned during the campaign that in this hyperactive media environment, the only solution is to address the rumors head on."
The goal of the week, he said, is to "return the focus to how health insurance reform will benefit American families."