- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

President Obama will go to Northern Virginia on Wednesday afternoon to hold a town hall-style discussion on national health care.

Mr. Obama has chosen Virginia where employees pay some of the highest health-insurance premiums in the country, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Single people pay 24 percent of the cost of premiums offered through Virginia employers, the highest in the country. They also pay 31 percent for family coverage through employer plans, tying Virginia for third with several other states, according to the foundation. The average family premium is $13,000 a year, according to statistics provided by the Obama administration.

Mr. Obama will field questions from the live audience and through the social sites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where 20- to 30-second video questions can be posted. The event at Northern Virginia Community College is scheduled to begins at 1:15 p.m. EDT.

The Virginia event is the third in the past four weeks in which the president has attempted to take the debate out of Washington and to Americans.

Last week, the president held a nationally televised forum on ABC at the White House in which he discussed health-care reform and took questions from more than 150 audience members — including patients, doctors, insurance company executives and small-business owners. He repeated his familiar line that health-care costs are increasing three times faster than wages.

Mr. Obama traveled on June 11 to Wisconsin for a town hall meeting in Green Bay in which he focused on the increasing costs of care.

Mr. Obama has made health care a priority in the early stages of his administration and says reforming the system is essential to the country’s economic recovery and “one of the most important challenges of our time.”

Reigning in health-care costs and providing insurance to most Americans are key points in the president’s reform plan. However, he has so far allowed Congress to craft the legislation.

Congress will resume debates when members return Monday from an extended Fourth of July break.

The president has said the government will not have to borrow money, but some fellow Democrats and many Republicans oppose the plan.

Among the issues facing lawmakers are:
• Should government run a plan that competes with private insurers?
• Can workers keep their plan and doctor?
• Will employer benefits be taxed?

“I think we believe, along what Democrats believe, that all Americans should have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance,” House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, recently said. “We’re not for a plan that puts the government in charge of our health care, decides what doctors ought to be paid or what treatments ought to be prescribed.”

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