Green Bay, Wisconsin-- In his first town hall meeting on health care reform, President Obama said the status quo is unsustainable and that, "we've reached the point where doing nothing about the cost of health care is no longer an option."
He also tried to reassure those who believe the nation is headed toward a system of socialized medicine. "I don't know anybody in Washington who is proposing that, certainly not me," he told those gathered here in a high school gym. He hammered home the same theme in response to a question from the audience, insisting he doesn't favor government control of health care. The president said, "I do not want the government to run things. I've got enough to do. I've got North Korea and Iran. I've got Afghanistan and Iraq. "
The President acknowledged that government can't do everything, and urged Americans to take some the stress off the health care system by taking better care of themselves. He says too many children spend too much time in front of the television and singled out schools that serve pizza and French fries because its the easy option.
President Obama also repeated his controversial call for a public health insurance option as part of health care reform. The idea has drawn the ire of the American Medical Association, which represents about 250,000 U.S. doctors. The President is scheduled to address the A.M.A. at its annual meeting Monday in Chicago. The president said a public program should be one choice offered consumers because "we want some competition. If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it'll keep them honest and it'll help keep their prices down."
A health care reform plan is being authored by committee chairmen behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. The president said he's willing to listen to any option presented to him and possibly to "steal other people's ideas." He said he hopes there's a bill on his desk by October.
-Steve Centanni and Anne McGinn