President Barack Obama held a town hall in Montana today to discuss health care reform Friday.
The president began by addressing the raucous town hall protests around the country -- and his own placid event in New Hampshire earlier in the week.
"The fact is, health care touches all of our lives in a profound way. So it is only natural that this debate is an emotional one. And I know there's been a lot of attention paid to some of the town hall meetings that are going on around the country - especially those where tempers have flared. You know how TV loves a ruckus," he said.
"But what you haven't seen -- and what makes me proud -- are the many constructive meetings going on all over the country," Obama continued. "Earlier this week, I held a town hall in New Hampshire. A few thousand people showed up. Some were big supporters of health insurance reform. Some had concerns and questions. And some were downright skeptical. But I was glad to see that people weren't there to shout. They were there to listen. And I think that reflects the American people far more than what we've seen covered on television these past few days."
Answering a question about Medicaid changes from the mother of an autistic child, he said that the system as is doesn't provide good enough care: "Our system really is not a health care system, it's more like a disease care system. We wait until people get sick, and then we provide them with care."
Asked if he would look to other countries' health care systems as a model, Obama responded that we need a ""uniquely American" system.
The crowd, estimated by the White House at about 1,300 people, was civil though Obama did get some pointed questions. One came from a man who called himself "a proud NRA member," referring to the National Rifle Association, and said he got most of his news from cable TV.
"You can't tell us how you're going to pay for this," the man said. "The only way you're going to get that money is raise our taxes."
"You are absolutely right. I can't cover another 47 million people for free. I can't do that. We're going to have to find money from somewhere," Obama said.
He noted a congressional estimate that legislation being considered in the Senate could cost $800 billion to $900 billion over ten years.
But he said there were ways to find money other than raising taxes, including streamlining the system and eliminating what he said were subsidies to insurance companies.