Obama Tells Religious Leaders Health Care Reform Is About ‘Hope and Fear’

By Staff Report

Aug. 20, 2009

In a phone call Wednesday, August 19, with faith leaders and citizens, President Barack Obama asked for their help in advancing the health care reform process, saying the debate “goes to the heart of who we are as a people’ and “boils down between hope and fear.”

Obama addressed concerns on a variety of topics, including cost and coverage.

“If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,” Obama told listeners on the call.

“Nothing you’re doing obligates you to change,” he added. “We’re not going to interfere with that. I don’t want government bureaucrats meddling in your health care, but I also don’t want insurance bureaucrats meddling in your health care.”

The president also commented on a more sensitive issue, saying that government funding of abortion as part of health care reform is “not true.”

Sponsored by more than 25 faith-based organizations representing various denominations, the call—“40 Minutes for Health Reform”—began with an opening prayer and then featured ministers, priests, rabbis and citizens who shared their personal experiences in the nation’s health care system.

Melody Barnes, the president’s domestic policy advisor and director of the Domestic Policy Council, answered questions from callers and Web users, and said the president is committed to lowering costs, increasing choice and competition, and ending what she called “sweetheart deals” for insurance companies.

She also said Obama thinks a public option is the best way to achieve these goals, but that he is “open to other ideas.”

“I think health care reform will ensure that future generations of Americans will have a better and less wasteful system,” Barnes said in answer to a question about burdening future generations with more debt.

“We are spending more than any industrialized nation, but not always getting quality results,” she added. “We need to address the issue of cost. The president has promised to do this without adding to the deficit.”

Filed by Jessica Zigmond of Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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