August 13th, 2009
11:30 AM ET

Dear President Obama #206: The battle of the ages

Reporter's Note: President Obama is caught up in the heat of the health care fight. The rest of us are just caught up in the heat of summer in DC. Fortunately I’m generally writing my daily letters to the White House deep in the night when it is cooler. And often I’m just wearing a t-shirt and running shorts. I know. Too much information.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/12/obama.0811.gi.jpg]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Well, I attended another one of those wild town hall meetings on health care today, and they seem to be losing no steam. I must say the folks who are against this are really against it, and how! Frankly, I didn’t even know folks that age could throw chairs that far! I truly can’t think of another issue in recent years that I’ve seen light up so many people in so many places all at once. Usually this kind of fervor is reserved for local liquor license debates or strip club ordinances at city council meetings.

But as the old song goes, “the heat is on,” and it seems to be all over the place.

And speaking of age, there is one characteristic of the crowds at these meetings that I think you must not overlook: A massive number of people who oppose your plan are older; meaning older than you or me. Our most recent polls back up the observation. The greatest opposition is coming from people over 50.

In some ways that makes a lot of sense. Whether the health care system is good or bad, they’ve built their lives and careers around it the way it is. Any attempt to change it now creates uncertainly and fear for them, because if you get it wrong they have no time for a redo.

Younger people, on the other hand, are more prone to support health care reform, because let’s face it they’re working with a net. They have the luxury (hopefully) of many years of healthy life before needing the kind of intense medical support that old age often requires. Just as importantly, while they enjoy those “healthy” decades, many of the bugs in your new system will be presumably fumigated. In other words, younger voters are not so much the guinea pigs in all this.

I know that some of them have serious health issues. Some struggle mightily to deal with insurance issues and wonder if they’ll ever be protected. But the people who seem to be showing up most to these meetings are the older crowd. And many of them are angry and scared. If you want them to support your plan, you need to somehow convince them that this really will work smoothly, effectively, and efficiently…not in some distant future, but right now…when many of them need reliable health care most.

Call if you get a moment. Unless I’m somewhere listening to arguments, I’m around, and it would be nice to hear a friendly voice. You too? Ha!



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Kathy O.

    I so agree with Gina. A lot of the anger is racial. I'm originally for the Northeast but have lived in rural Arkansas for over 30 years. My county is all-white; I am white. They hate Obama. The don't call him Black but "N." I talked yesterday with the pharmacist clerk about health-care reform. She got so upset she began to shake. She cannot stand the idea that Obama is Black and our President. I would never have suspected such hatred from her.

    As for senior citizens, I just don't get it. I am a senior citizen on Medicare, and I remember the struggles to get it approved. I always though people got wiser with age. Perhaps not.

    Religion is not really my thing, but every night I pray that President Obama and his family be protected from harm. I fear that the unthinkable could happen.

    When so many elected officials are in bed with the insurance and drug lobbies, I do not see a bright future for the USA to continue its present place in the world. Many parts of our country are already like a third world. I am ashamed that senior citizens, who more than anyone with their life experience, do not have the sense to see where all this is going.

    August 13, 2009 at 7:30 pm |
  2. Mike

    It's the older people who are covered by very generous, government-sponsored, health insurance: Medicare. Ironic, isn't it? They got theirs and now they want to block any effort to provide for others, in effect, pulling up the ladder behind them.

    The health care spending accounts for a staggering 16% of the US GDP. It's very big money. Of course, the industry is out in force to protect their profits, and they will go to any ends to slow, derail, or block reform.. Every day the Wall Street Journal op/ed page is full of opinion pieces against health care reform. Because they are worried it threatens the health of the American people? No, because it threatens Wall Street investments.

    As reported by CNN itself, Republican leaders believe if they can block health care reform they can break the will of the Democratic party, damage Obama, and return to power. They are not operating in the best interests of the American people, but in their venal self interest. Top Republican leaders inflame the debate by continuously repeating intentional distortions about the pending health bills, spreading misinformation and lies on cable television and talk radio.

    People can have honest disagreements about government health and tax policies. These issues are complex and deserve to have full and fair hearings before the American public. But when Republican congressmen and leaders knowingly lie, they have crossed the line. They are not just operating in bad faith. They are scoundrels.

    August 13, 2009 at 7:13 pm |
  3. Tim

    All of the comments I have heard denouncing the protestations of citizens regarding Healthcare reform dismiss any opposition to the plan as if it is the one and only way to tackle healthcare reform. I can tell noone has read the thing because of all of the misinformation.
    Get it, read it and then debate it.
    There is no need to ram through a crappy plan or a plan that not everyone understands. It is too big and important to all of us-even the apparently dreaded OLD people.
    There is no age limit on a citizen's right to protest and since the older folks use the healthcare system more than anyone they are rightfully engaged. A one-sided sales campagin isnt helpful either. Let's all look at the plan and then decide.
    BTW, Where is the iphone app for the younger citizxens so that they can access the actual plan?

    August 13, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  4. Colleen McKinley

    Your piece last night on one of the town hall shouters was badly flawed. Described as the self-employed owner of a "health services business," he seems actually to own a home health business, which means he benefits from the current reimbursement system, substantially skewing his views. Yet there was no mention of this. Also, those of us watching want to know: where does HE get health insurance (since he's self-employed, presumably in the notorious inidividual market)? How much does he pay? Instead he was just allowed to mouth anti-government platitudes. Surely you can do better.

    August 13, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  5. Susan

    A lot of medical expenditure contributed by expensive and repeated testing by the doctors is done more so by defensive medical practices. The doctors are constantly worried of malpractice law suits which in some cases have been unscrupulous and meaningless.

    President Obama needs to address the role of medical malpractice lawyers that are controlling physician practice styles, which has contributed to unnecessary medical expenditure.

    August 13, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  6. Tired in Dallas

    FEd Up!

    The company I work for in Texas has immigrants employed here and they DON'T GET FREE HEALTHCARE. The legal ones due, but their older family members that are not legal have to pay cash up-front for healthcare. Nor do they get Social Security or any other freebies. This plan does NOT cover illegal immigrants either. Check your facts please.

    August 13, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  7. Jim Rapp

    1-way to pay for Health Care Reform......Mr. President,

    I have a thought, about 1-way to pay for Health Care Reform!

    The following numbers and percentages may be wrong, but I believe that the Concept is Sound & Fair.

    Currently our tax's for SSI & Medicare run about 8% of our income with a yearly Max/Cap

    When I was working, I made between $25-30,000 per yr. and never reached the Max/Cap, while the higher wage earners received a Tax/Cut at (some point) When They Reached the M/cap.

    My idea, is to lower the Currant (SSI/MC) Tax percentage rate from 8% to 4% and, Removing the Max/Cap.

    By doing this, you would lower the tax on the lower income brackets, and extend those on wage earners above $250M

    The extra income from this idea, could put SSI & Medicare back on stable ground, as well as pay for Health Care Reform.

    This also would be the Fairest Way for All to Pay for All 3-Benefits, that We All Share-in!!!

    Perhaps with a break down, that might look like 1%-SSI 1%-Medicare & 2%-Health Care (or something like this)

    "Thank You" James E. Rapp

    August 13, 2009 at 5:30 pm |
  8. george

    some of the people complaining of our country is changing ,Will I have news for you when you were absent!...we have 30million illegals in this country a population size of Iraq ,we have people not facing the facts they just creating chaos for news media to report.

    August 13, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  9. Andrew

    If these people were real hard working americans, they would realize that healthcare reform is necessary. To get rich off of sick people is unethical. These people that are storming these meetings are only thinking about money, If they had a sick family member that does not have insurance they would be whistling a different tune. I am distugusted with the behavior from these republicans, I would looooove to meet these people face to face. I would have a field day on them.

    August 13, 2009 at 4:45 pm |
  10. Gary Ehlenberger

    Shouldn't the health care system be under one insurance provider to be cost effective, gather the best health data, and have the best statistical predictions for health problems? A single pay system would optimize the statistical analysis for prediction and research. The medical science would improve and thus drive down costs and make it easier to spot environmental health costs. This would make it easier to make sure companies report the true cost of doing business including health and environmental effects.

    August 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm |
  11. Angie

    AARP is NOT an advocacy group representing seniors. They support the insurance and drug industry. That is how they lobby. That is their background. When the SHIP (Senior Health Insurance Programs-federal) were implemented nationwide, AARP counselors were not allowed to participate because of their conflict of interest (insurance/drug). AARP uses all the names of seniors who have signed into their programs as those they represent but really that is not the truth-we have seen that demonstrated time and time again. Look at their origin.

    August 13, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  12. Joanna Chios

    I am genuinely sadden by the Healthcare Bill. It is clearly written to become the blueprint for a central nationalized healthcare system. I read it and I read it carefully.

    In America people want control of their personal decisions. For decades our fathers and fathers fathers have faught for freedom. It may be hard to believe but this country was founded by those who would not let other ditate to them. It appears this innate desire and right is being conveinently ignaored in the name of healthcare for all.

    It will not work in this country. What I see if a charismatic President who believes he can persuade enough people to make a drastic change in america from a capitalistic system to a more socialistic friendly system. He doesn't seem to think the people have and want free will. He trys to convince these people to see it his way by suggesting this is but another option. That's when I knew he will do whatever it takes to push this plan into law.

    You see the same arument was used with the FFELP college loan program over a decade ago. FFELP was providing cost effective student loans to all students but Senator Edward Kenndy did not like the private sector's involvment. The Direct Lending program was introduced and "intended to be an option for any student who couldn't get a student loan". Sound familar? Soon after the direct loan (DL) program began to compete with the private sector, which was already satuated with lenders, and strong arming the state schools to use DL. Do I still have your attention? Soon after that the government began to suggest the DL program was more cost effective. The reality is the admistative cost were not included from the calculations. As a result DL showed signficantly better cost numbers, no surprize here.

    Earlier this year President Obama proposed eliminating the FFELP program this year using the bogus cost-saving numbers and eliminating competition with the government program.

    Thank you.

    August 13, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  13. Carolyn Lockett

    I am one of the millions of uninsured Americans in this country. It would be interesting to find out if these rowdy dissenters to healthcare reform are insured…..Hummmmm. Its easy to squawk when you have healthcare. What about us?

    August 13, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  14. Brennis

    Nice to see people comign to their senses...and thanks Tom for you insightful thinking and sharing not only with our president but with the public as well....

    yes the young people voted and have spoken up to say they want this man to invest in them and he has and will...the older generation has flip flopped and need to take a back seat to this issue and many others for that matter. honestly.

    My grandparents 70 and 80, my aunts and uncles 50+ have bought houses for a fraction of what they are selling for even now as the recession proceeds, they have saved money for retirement and paid for their kids college, all while making the same amount of money I make now. And in some cases I make more than they did when they graduated from college and started working but inflation fromthis capitalist system has made it impossible for me to have the same opportunities. I'm 26 and have a child and the amount of debt to feed her and rent an apartment is what my elders paid for a mortgage, a car payment, insurance on that car, food etc....so give our president a break and give health care reform a chance. It's not about what you already have is about what you can give to somebody else.

    $2400 bucks a month just doesn't go as far as it used to. 🙂

    San Diego, CA

    August 13, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  15. JGB

    The proposed change to healthcare SHOULD be feared. Not all change is good and this one is down right a matter of life and death.

    August 13, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  16. jim

    Maybe this article would be better directed towards the people instilling the fear in older Americans with lies like euthanasia for the disabled and people in their age group.

    Instilling fear has worked for them for 8 years and fear is what they push.

    August 13, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  17. GH

    Members of that older generation are the same ones hurling racist epithets at Obama, too, but I've already railed about that for months now. The plan is not change but merely an alternative, and I suspect most of the protestors are opposed not so much against the plan itself but the man proposing it. At any rate, these folks need to be shown video clips of people lining up by the thousands for the free health clinics in Los Angeles. Masses of people needing urgent medical care who are underinsured or uninsured, and unable to afford medical care because they were unable - not unwilling - to find work. These are the folks to whom Obama reaches out, and the problem he and his Administration are trying to solve.

    August 13, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  18. Michael C. McHugh

    I think almost all of this is fake, just to give the image of anger and things being out of control. The Republicans bus these people in, and they all sit together in a group. They give them a list of questions and talking points, and stuff the group is supposed to shout out to disrupt the speakers. In these groups, there are always organizers and cheerleaders who tell this people when to jump up an down, start yelling and booing and so on.

    If you study the video of these events carefully, you'll see exactly what I mean. It's all being organized by the Republicans and various big money interests who want to block all health care reform in this country for the next 30 years.

    August 13, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  19. Norma Labno


    Tom, I'm glad you're taking the time and effort to write President Obama
    each day with meaningful insight on each subject you choose!

    I am a Senior over 50 (make that over 60) and I feverishly, fervently
    want to see effective, meaningful Health Care Reform in my lifetime!

    I have fought a chronic illnes for 36 years and am beyond grateful
    to both public health care (The Santa Clara Health Care System in
    the 70's; 30 yrs. ago, which saved my life!)

    I have also had some wonderful doctors and therapists in the Private
    sector as well including Kaiser Permanente when I lived in CA!

    I am using an HMO right now but I do miss the speed with which I can
    make an appointment with a doctor in the private sector so I am
    considering going back on Medicare though it does not cover nearly
    as much as the HMO including RX so will be much more expensive!

    I do not understand how Seniors do not "get" that they are using a
    single-payor system, a system run by our government; if they are on

    I tweet each day trying to do my tiny part to support effective, efficient,
    Health Care Reform! I am grateful to ALL who are working toward
    this goal!!! THANK YOU!

    norma from nevada

    August 13, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  20. Pat

    Letter #206 is an excellent summary of why the over 50 group opposes this health care reform. The under 40 American doesn't seem to even understand an adjustable rate mortgage or the word recession. We certainly should not be trusting the average under 40 American's opinion of a major reform. If this health care fails, they will just expect that the government will come up with yet another bail out program.

    August 13, 2009 at 12:44 pm |
  21. Traveler

    It is interesting that many of the angry opponents are senior citizens (or close to being considered senior citizens). Why are they so angry about this bill and fearful of government supported health care? They have medicare....a federal health insurance program.

    August 13, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  22. Heidi Ann Berg

    Mission Impossible,yes convincing the 50 and older crowd will never happen . I wish there was a way that the reform could be a split for now .like the people that want it can ,so it's not up to vote ,it's an individual plane .Just to start off

    August 13, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  23. Rachel / Texas

    Tom, very good point, People fear change, "The unknown", but where would we be today, if someone hadn't had the courage to "Step out on faith" or the courage to buck a system that needed changing?, I'm in that over fifty group, but I also worked over 30 years, a full time job!!, I was also diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2004, I lost job, healthcare, life Ins, and now I can apply for none of the above!!, and am fighting a system I paid into for over 30 years, so if you have a moment, give me a call and we'll talk something called reality, read and appreciate your daily letters to President Obama, and Mr President, you have my support..God bless

    August 13, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  24. Mike

    Personally, the man is TRYING to change our country. People like Sarah Palin is what's hurting politics. George Bush dug a HUGE hole for the country and the economy!! I knew last fall people would be quick to criticize our new President, and not give him time. This is what angers me. I AM a Democrat, and I stand firmly.

    August 13, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  25. Sigh

    As someone in their mid 40's, my biggest concern is finances and who's going to pay for what. The government has a nasty habit of saying they won't increase taxes...and they don't....but they find something else they can levy a fee on instead. I get tired of hearing all the crying about socialism. Do some math people. By the time you pay everything out of pocket that most countries already provide, you're not taking home any more than anyone in a socialized country. Most of the crying is done by the wealthy to stir up support to protect them from paying more. If they can get most people to believe that's where we're headed, then they're safe.
    The government has to quit promising everything to everyone. That's the number one problem. The first step should be to bar social aide to anyone who does not successfully complete high school. Education is free to all. 30 – 40 years ago, a high school education was enough to get a decent job. These days, you need a college degree for these same jobs. People complain about the disparity in wages, etc.... The solution is education, not handouts. Until we make that point blatantly clear and people desperate for one, the hands will continue to extend while those who get it pay for it. With education comes opportunity and a decreased demand for social services. That's a huge savings to everyone and we're already paying for the educations whether kids drop out or not.

    August 13, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  26. Jolene C.

    If they are old enough for Medicare why are they throwing chairs? Why can't their grandkids look forward to being cared for by the same system that probably cares for them right now or in the near future.
    Half of these people were handed a load of blah from Medicare Part B plans under the Bush administration and now are afraid of anything the government does or doesn't do. I don't blame them but at the same time they need to get out of the way.

    August 13, 2009 at 11:10 am |
  27. Fed Up

    The older and wiser people are AGAINST this healthcare reform. They KNOW what politicians promise and what actually gets delivered..........Lies and more Lies. The younger people are idealistic and still believe in the promises of politicians and face it, they are used to having everything taken care of for them. The thought of taking care of oneself has eluded them.

    Quality over quantity.....why do you think many Canadians come here for their healthcare? We are not willing to pay for illegal aliens healthcare.

    August 13, 2009 at 10:16 am |
  28. teresita saavedra

    Americans are so lucky to have a hard working president who is seriously concerned with the present and future issues of your nation and its people, I envy you for that.
    Living in a nation where the politicians and the civil servants still rule in a fuedalistic manner. Where corruption in the government is at its highest level and where the health care system in non existing, I look at your country with awe, knowing that your public servants care a lot.

    Have faith in your new President, he means business but he has the heart of a man whose compassion for your country is so great.

    August 13, 2009 at 9:28 am |
  29. Gina

    None of this is about health care at all, what the media is avoiding is that this is really about fear on the part of the white majority, mostly seniors who already have government health care through Medicare.

    This is all about fear of losing their control to brown and black people and it's fueled by the sensationalism of the entertainment media such as CNN, MSNBC, and FOX.

    If the media took health care reform seriously they would be going out there talking to the millions of working poor young families who cannot provide health care for themselves and their children, but no, you prefer to highlight the mobs who already have Medicare.

    August 13, 2009 at 9:19 am |
  30. RLWellman

    We need Health Care Reform that is not ran by the Government!

    Don't keep trying to shove this health care reform bill down our throats the way it is written. The majority of American citizens do not want this the way it is written now.

    You can't make laws by one party that govern the whole United States without getting the other parties upset. Take the bill back, try writing it with all parties involved, and remove the portions that include the Goverment running the program. This will be a good start!

    August 13, 2009 at 9:07 am |