Just three days removed from a major health care speech before Congress, President Barack Obama rallied an estimated 15,000 people for his plan at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Saturday.
Obama detailed his plan for major health care reform. He said people agree on 80 percent of the issues, a level of agreement that has never happened before, despite a few sticking points like the public insurance option, which he supported to raucous applause.
The speech hit the same points as Wednesday’s Congressional address, and the President repeated that his $900 billion plan would not “add one dime to our deficit.”
Savings could be found through elimination of subsidies to HMOs, waste and fraud in the system and cutting down on the cost of Medicare and Medicaid, Obama said. He also cited Mayo Clinic as an example offering “high-quality care at costs below average.”
A new report from the Treasury Department found nearly half of all Americans under 65 will lose their health coverage at some point over the next 10 years, Obama said. “The time for bickering is over.”
Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., tens of thousands of people protested Obama’s reform plan on Capitol Hill. Outside the Target Center, critics of the reform held signs bearing slogans like “Liar Liar” and sang mottos like “I’ve got the Blue Cross Blue Shield blues.”
Inside, dissent was minimal, and entrance security prevented people from bringing posters for or against the plan into the building.
The event was reminiscent of Obama’s previous campaign trail stop at the Target Center in February 2008. Enthusiastic attendees yelled “Yes, we can,” and Obama closed the event with a story about the origins of his campaign slogan, “Fired up, ready to go!”
Curt Baker , former president of Students for Barack Obama , said the health care debate was “spiraling out of control,” and it was time for the president to put his foot down and say “this is what I want,” which he did in his Congressional address and again in Minnesota.
Change begins “in places like Minneapolis … in places like St. Paul,” Obama said. He was “really going to take it to the people,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Obama’s health care message.
Klobuchar, along with Sen. Al Franke n and Rep. Keith Ellison , arrived with Obama on Air Force One . Klobuchar said Obama’s speech addressed one of Minnesotan’s biggest concerns — the cost and affordability of the plan — which she discussed with the president during the flight.
Obama said a health care insurance exchange, where individuals and small businesses could shop for affordable care, would allow Americans to compare prices and find the best deal. For those who still need help paying for care, Obama said his plan would provide tax credits, as well as the government funded public option.
“Let me be clear — it would only be an option,” Obama said, which received much criticism at town hall meetings held by members of Congress over the August recess. Obama said he was open to talks with Republicans on reform.
Klobuchar said people can expect to see more details added to the bipartisan Senate Finance Committee bill in the next couple weeks.
Gov. Pawlenty critiques Obama’s plan
On ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said his suggestion last week to invoke the 10th Amendment, asserting state’s rights to prevent Minnesota from participating in the Obama health care plan, was addressing a practical issue more than a legal one.
“In the political sense, in the common sense arena, we need to have a clear understanding of what the federal government does well and what should be reserved for the states,” he said. “There are some things that the federal government shouldn’t do, doesn’t do well and should leave to the states.”
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