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Conservative political group rallies against Obama health care push

Posted July 29, 2009 3:44 p.m. EDT
Updated July 29, 2009 10:41 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina chapter of a conservative political advocacy group held a rally Wednesday to provide a counter-argument to President Barack Obama's effort to overhaul the U.S. health care system.

More than 200 people showed up at the Americans for Prosperity gathering at the North Raleigh Hilton, a few miles away from Broughton High School where Obama spoke to a crowd about why America needs health care reform.

“America has the best health care system in the world. Why are we messing with it,” health care reform opponent Dr. Brent Elmers said at the Americans for Prosperity rally.

Opponents worry that Obama's health care plan would include too much government involvement.

“We don't want Washington running our health care system,” Americans for Prosperity state director Dallas Woodhouse said.

Opponents to Obama's plan say they fear government-run health care will create more bureaucracy, higher taxes, fewer choices and less access.

“It takes away our freedom that I helped fight for,” health care reform opponent Don Wiseman said at the Americans for Prosperity rally.

Wiseman, an 82-year-old World War II veteran, said he doesn't think a government-run plan is necessary to achieve the reform needed.

State GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer also criticized Obama's plan, saying health care needs reforming, not an overhaul. He said he believes the private sector can keep health care affordable and costs down.

“Let’s look at how we can allow doctors not to practice so defensively. Let us look at the true cost of allowing non-Americans to access our health care system, and who is going to pay for it, and why shouldn't they,” Fetzer said.

But Obama tried to reassure more than 2,000 people at the Broughton town hall forum that his plan is not about a government takeover of health care but rather bringing stability and security to the industry.

"Under the reform I’ve proposed, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan," Obama said.

Obama pledged that the health care legislation he is seeking will bar insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions and include numerous provisions to hold down the cost of care for consumers.

"No longer will insurance companies be allowed to drop or water down coverage for someone who's become seriously ill. That's not right, it's not fair," Obama said.

An estimated 1.8 million residents – 21 percent of the population  have no health care in North Carolina, according to a report by the Center for American Progress. For those who have coverage, health insurance premiums have increased 75 percent from 2000 to 2007.

Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-2nd district, said Obama's plan would help bring affordable and high-quality health care to the uninsured.

"We need to get (health care) costs under control for working families, while improving access, increasing quality and providing peace of mind," Etheridge said in a statement.

Senate Republican leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, however, said that he is concerned that government-run health care will "result in greater burdens to families, small businesses and state governments."

Under Obama's plan, insurance companies would also have to obey limits on the out-of-pocket costs they could demand and would not be permitted to charge co-pays or other fees for preventive care such as checkups or mammograms.

Children would remain eligible for family coverage through age 26, rather than the current 23, a step that would reduce the number of young uninsured adults.

House lawmakers indicated Wednesday that they were moving ahead on their version of the health care legislation after leaders and fiscally conservative Democrats worked out a deal.

Senators trying to reach a bipartisan compromise also indicated progress in paring the costs of the plan as they push for an agreement they hope will appeal to the political middle.