By Peter J. Smith

PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire, August 11, 2009 ( – President Barack Obama reassured Americans gathered at a town-hall style gathering in New Hampshire on Tuesday that a public-option in health care would not lead to the death of private insurance and rationing by telling them that private mail carriers, like UPS and Fed-Ex, have done just fine against the US Post Office. But comparing the government plan to a bankrupt postal service may not help a President who just slipped today under 50 percent approval in one poll.

“If you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It's the Post Office that's always having problems,” Obama told a questioner, who expressed concern that the public option would run private insurers out of business. Obama said that the public option would have to pay for itself and not through tax-increases leveled on the middle-class.

However, the US Post Office is having serious problems lately and that analogy could raise alarms about the future of government run health-care. The Post Office, which does not raise revenue through taxes, faces a $7 billion loss for this fiscal year, and is slated to close approximately 700 or more offices across the country.

“If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,” said Obama. “You will not be waiting in any lines, this is not about putting the government in charge of your health insurance.”

“Insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against people for the simple crime of being sick,” said Obama, who warned that 14,000 people a day would continue to lose health coverage without action. Obama stated a public option would keep insurance providers “honest.”

But one man complained that with Medicaid, “I'm dealing with the same thing that the insurance companies are giving me.” His doctor had prescribed him Lipitor for years, but when Medicaid got involved, they refused to pay for it, and would only pay for it after he was forced to try two other drugs. Obama responded that he assumed Medicaid was trying to put him on generic drug, because “there may be nine out of ten cases where the generic will work just as well as the brand name.”

Another questioner asked how the government can avoid rationing care by adding 50 million uninsured, when the supply of doctors and nurses will remain the same.

“My concern is for where are we going to get the doctors and nurses to cover this,” she stated, adding that she knows doctors who are changing to administrative positions because of their caseload. She also stated that she was worried that a “Federal health board will sit in judgment over medical procedures.”

Obama corrected her by saying the government estimates 47 million are uninsured, but realistically only approximately 38 million will actually get covered. Obama insisted that “expert health panels” would provide guidelines about what procedures work best, and that would lead to higher quality of care.

“Higher quality care costs less,” he responded. “We are paying six thousand dollars more than any other country.”

As to the shortages of nurses and doctors, Obama had no solutions except to change reimbursement rates and assistance in medical education to encourage more primary care physicians and nurses.

Compared with other town hall meetings, the Obama event at the Portsmouth high school looked more like a Potemkin-village with an overwhelmingly friendly crowd clapping vigorously and chanting shouts of “Yes We Can.”  Elsewhere today Democratic Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) were facing a grilling peppered with boos, jeers, and difficult questions from massive turnouts of informed voters demanding answers, and reading aloud sections of the legislation that supported their concerns.

Specter faced 300 people in Lebanon, Pennsylvania at a packed community college auditorium with hundreds more rallied outside. The Senator responded to 30 questions, with only one of them in favor of the health-care reform.

“It's not about left and right. This is about the systematic dismantling of this country. I am only 35 years old, I have never been interested in politics you have awakened the sleeping giant,” said one Pennsylvania woman. “We are tired of this, this is why everybody in this room is so ticked off. I don't want this country turning into Russia or a socialized country. My question for you is, what are you going to do to restore this country back to what our founders created according to the Constitution.”

The crowd erupted in a standing ovation. Questioner number eight, thanked Sen. Specter for representing the Republicans who sent him to Congress, which elicited laughter from the crowd, as Specter had abandoned the Republicans to caucus with the Democratic majority in the Senate. The questioner demanded to know how government could be trusted when Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Post Office face bankruptcy.

“You are taking our kids future, and driving it right into the toilet. We cannot afford this. Period. Keep the government out of it. We are doing just fine.”

Rasmussen's daily presidential tracking poll shows that President Obama has a 50 percent disapproval rating, with only 49 percent approving at least somewhat. Rasmussen also shows that 51 percent also fear the federal government more than private health insurance companies.


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