Obama Takes Health Care Case To Montana
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block in Washington.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand in California.
President Obama took his case for a health care overhaul to the West today. He made the first of several stops in states where skepticism about his plans runs high. He got some push back today in the town of Belgrade, Montana but he also heard from supporters.
NPR's Don Gonyea is traveling with the president and joins us now. Don, tell us about this event in Belgrade.
DON GONYEA: Well, I can tell you Air Force One landed at this small airfield kind of in the middle of nowhere, which a lot of things are in Montane. It was just a short walk from the plane to this hanger where a very polite crowd had assembled, about 1,300 people, some wearing cowboy hats that had a western feel. The state's two Democratic U.S. senators were here. There were a lot of people here who were clearly supportive of the president, but there were also some very clear skeptics and some opponents.
BRAND: And what kinds of questions did the president get?
GONYEA: Again, a lot of them were about how will this work? What will this mean? There were questions about Medicare and how Medicaid might be affected. There was a lot of talk of frustration with the current system, some of those coming from small businesses. And those kind of questions are - those are questions the president just loves because it gives him a chance to talk about how things will be better. But there was one gentleman called on right in the middle of this hour-long event who said, Mr. President, you are going to have to raise taxes if you do this. And he introduced himself this way.
Mr. RANDY RATHIE(ph): My name is Randy Rathie. I'm from Ekalaka, Montana. And as you can see, I'm a proud NRA member.
(Soundbite of applause)
Mr. RATHIE: I believe in our Constitution…
President BARACK OBAMA: Yeah.
(Soundbite of applause)
Mr. RATHIE: …and it's a very important thing. I also get my news from the cable networks because I don't like the spin that comes from them other places.
Pres. OBAMA: Oh, you got to be careful about them cable networks. You got something, go ahead. Go on with your question.
BRAND: Don, be careful about them cable networks. It sounds like the president is offering his own media criticism there.
GONYEA: He's not shy about doing that. And you could hear from the cheers when the guy said he was an NRA member that there was a lot of sympathy for his perspective in the crowd.
There was another from a guy - another tough question who stood up and said he sells individual health insurance policies. And he said - health insurers have said they want to work with the White House and with the Congress to get some reforms, some changes enacted. But he wanted to know why the president has been vilifying insurance companies as he goes around the country and he said he wasn't satisfied with the president's response on that.
BRAND: Don, were there any questions from people who think the president should be going even further with his health care overhaul?
GONYEA: Yes. That's some of the criticism from the other side. And one woman stood up and said she likes the Canadian system. She likes the system they have in Great Britain. Why don't we just do that? And it gave the president an opportunity to say that while a public option should be part of this, that he doesn't want a government-run system that - that's not the kind of thing this country gave the president an opportunity to say that while a public option should be part of this, that he doesn't want a government-run system that - that's not the kind of thing this country needs or that we could go to.
BRAND: Thank you very much. That's NPR's Don Gonyea. He's traveling with the president in the West.
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