- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

President Obama on Tuesday directed his message of health-care reform to the country’s oldest residents.

“All I know right now is we have a problem, and it includes the spiraling cost of Medicare,” Mr. Obama said at a town-hall-style meeting at the AARP headquarters in Washington.

Mr. Obama stuck to his familiar points such as cutting health-care costs by eliminating waste — including patients taking the same tests “over and over again.”

He also restated that advance screening for cancer and rewarding doctors for “quality, not quantity” care also will cut costs.

Mr. Obama repeatedly said he understood Americans were “scared” about the proposed changes and reminded them how skeptics made similar comments about “socialized medicine” when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965.

“Nobody is talking about reducing Medicare benefits,” Mr. Obama said. “If it works, we don’t want to change it. What we want to do is to eliminate some of the waste.”

After a brief introductory speech, Mr. Obama took questions from the audience and from the Internet.

A caller named Margaret said she was concerned about Mr. Obama’s proposed public option forcing her to drop her private insurer.

Said Mr. Obama: “If you have insurance that you like, you will be able to keep it. If you have a doctor that you like, you can keep that doctor. Nobody is trying to change what works. We’re trying to change what doesn’t work… . This is not like Canada.”

Convincing seniors his reform plan makes sense is important to Mr. Obama because they make up roughly 12.6 percent of the U.S. population.

A. Barry Rand, AARP’s chief executive officer, said the organization, a powerful lobbying force with roughly 40 million members, has endorsed none of the bills pending on Capitol Hill. He also said the group supports neither Democrats nor Republicans in the reform debates in Congress, including one on the roughly $1.5 billion House plan.

“But if we don’t act now, it will only get worse,” Mr. Rand said.

Michelle Bollman contributed to this report.

• Joseph Weber can be reached at jweber@washingtontimes.com.old.

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