In Portsmouth, A Political Debate That's Personal

(Sarah Bush/WBUR)
Ann Marie Morse, 50, traveled to the event from Candia, N.H. (Sarah Bush/WBUR)

For many of the people gathered outside Portsmouth High School on Tuesday, the issue of health care reform is not just political, but personal.

"It's a crucial moment," said John Kavanagh, 53, of Durham, N.H, who suffers from osteoarthiritis in his hip. "Citizens should be happy that a president has come to listen to people like me. I'm in chronic pain. My concern is that I'll go into bankruptcy trying to pay for it."

Hundreds of protestors and supporters of health care reform waved signs and banners in the high school's parking lot ahead of President Obama's town hall meeting on health care reform.

Connie Scanlan, 55, traveled to the event from Andover, Mass. "As a nurse, mother and cancer survivor, I believe a public option is essential to health care reform," she said. "Otherwise the insurance industry will continue to control health care."

Susan Carroll, 50, of Atkinson, N.H., stood firmly on the other side of the parking lot and the issue. "I'm here because the government is pushing our country more and more into socialism," she said. "Health care reform is another piece of that puzzle. The government has no authority to provide health care."

Inside, President Obama defended himself against critics such as Carroll who say his overhaul would be a government takeover.

Obama said he doesn't think government bureacrats should be interfering with health care decisions involving patients and doctors. He also addressed Scanlan's concern, adding, "I also don't think insurance company bureacrats should be meddling."

The town hall meeting is an effort by the Obama administration to assuage the concerns of the vast majority of Americans who already have some sort of private health insurance, and to try to get them on board to extend that coverage to those Americans who are not uninsured.

This program aired on August 11, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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