August 14th, 2009
04:37 PM ET

Obama's big problem in Big Sky country

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/14/henry.obama.health.care/art.dentist.cnn.jpg caption="Sonja McDonald wants health care reform, but she doesn't want the government to be more involved."]
Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

Spend a day in this tiny town about 23 miles or so from where President Obama will be holding a town hall meeting on Friday, and it's easy to see why his health-care push is facing big problems in Big Sky country - even from the people he's trying to help.

I arrived here a couple of days ahead of the president in order to get a better read on his reform effort by talking to people like Sonja McDonald, who told me her husband's job as a diesel mechanic doesn't provide health insurance for them and their two children.

So I found McDonald at a remarkable local clinic getting a low-cost tooth extraction because she has not been able to afford a trip to the dentist in a couple of years. She voted for Obama and agrees with him that reform is needed, but said she's worried about the details.

"I believe that there is a health care crisis, I really do," she told me from a dentist chair in the clinic. "Do I believe that the government needs to be more involved? No! Because I think that they just - whenever they get their fingers in the pot it just kind of turns black."

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Ed Henry • Health Care • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Dydy

    Mr Fareed Zacaria thank you for the news on cuban people who need of help you talk the truth

    August 16, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  2. Dylan

    the Gop representing insurance of big compagny and their intersts also with the complicity of media and forget the need of people of U.S.A. completely

    August 16, 2009 at 6:43 pm |
  3. Rodeo Rider

    Can the people we have seen at the townhall meetings have a´
    conscious. Do they only care for themselves. They should be
    sent back in the Pilgrims Boats their ancestors arrived in since
    they dont want to be fair to others who also pay taxes but family need
    health care. It is a mockery and an embarrassment that all they were
    trying to do was interrupt the town hall meetings an didnt allow us
    to here. They should have thrown out the man that pulled that black
    ladys poster instead of police dragging her out the way they did and by the way i am not black. All you paid protestors or idiots are a disgrace to humanity. Pass Health Care Reform

    August 15, 2009 at 9:48 pm |
  4. Liz Nuncio

    I am soooo tired of the scare tactics being used by the rich republicans.. they dont have to worry being sick and they have government paid healthcare . Please stop being bullies and let me have healthcare.. even though i have worked for over 40 years I had to quit to take care of my mother, I lost my home and I can not work for now, I am a diabetic and i am without medication and can not afford to buy diabetes meds nor the pain medication i need for arthiritis: I have never applied for SSI because i thought i would leave that for those
    more ill. Free healthcare would be a blessing for me. Those against it
    do not care for the impoverished they have a one track mind HATE
    RACISM there eyes look shine red like the devil and they enjoy smiling with their lies to defeat the Health Care Program and OBAMA.
    Please Dear God Help US:

    August 15, 2009 at 9:38 pm |
  5. D. Mark O'Neill

    The new healthcare coming out of Washington says there will be no coverage for illegal immigrants. They are getting healthcare now and the taxpayers are paying for it so what will be the difference.

    August 15, 2009 at 3:33 pm |
  6. Sam

    The President needs to stay the message and give voice for change. We are ready for it. Disruptors are not as many are those who want change in healthcare. There is enough ignorance out there if an ex-mayor and a resigned state governor like Sara Palin could counted on the list of the ill informed.

    August 15, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  7. Aby

    Tax me for health care.

    August 15, 2009 at 12:24 pm |
  8. Sam

    The media need to do a better job to educate people. So far in the media's own pools you had an F grade but no signs of improvement. It is disappointing. Get and report the facts.
    1. How many of those causing disruptions will teach their kids this behavior at home?
    2. How many of the so called 80% who are happy with their insurance have lifetime employment?..I bet it is zero
    3. How many of the so called happy insured folks have run into real problems with the system .. like being covered for cancer and some real situations/
    4. Is it good for you to have your healthcare decision make by someone who is set up to profit from you? .. Only the ignorant will agree to this.

    Aks the right questions and bring out the facts and quit reporting garbage!!!!

    August 15, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  9. Hum Tum

    We don't want our country to be like Russia but we will follow Russian Or ly
    We are informed citizens, thus follow Pa li n, to see Russia from her porch
    We don't want socialism but social security, unemployment insurance and medicare
    We want our country back – back from intellectual people
    We don't want govt. bureaucrats; we can elect govt. Mo rans
    We don't need to show my birth certificate, but demand others to show theirs
    We want States right for governance & succession but could use some stimulus money
    We don't want govt control but stand by me at every crises & Katrina in my life
    We are Americans so we exercise our rights over others
    We are unique in our stu pi dity, so, America is the only place for me
    We are not angry mob, unamerican, nor militias, just boring left over teabagans
    We ha te color people, but, presently on vacation in Puerto Rico to TAN my skin
    We yell at meetings to say- hands off when my foot is in my mouth
    We have values, good ones, but hard to practice in C. street when lights are off
    We don't mind false sided F. news when delivered with a Tear
    We are fearful of death panel as it prohibits us from pulling the plug on my rich relatives
    We know amendments –to conceal drugs, alcohol, gu ns & soul mates
    We understand constitution-"Our forefathers & Sotomayor wrote something.I know she did”

    August 15, 2009 at 10:01 am |
  10. Traveler

    Excellent example of how many of health care opponents don't know what they are talking about. Sonja McDonald doesn't want government involvement, yet she has no problem taking government subsidized dental care? What a joke!

    August 15, 2009 at 3:24 am |
  11. J.V.Hodgson

    Dear Sonja,
    Glad you oppose any assistance for you and your families health care because it might be government run, and are lucky enough to find the low price service you are pictured receiving. It will still be there with the Obama plan.
    You circumstances seem similar to mine at certain points in life with the exception that there were no cheap clinics, and it was Pay full price or suffer the toothache, or do a self extraction which I did eventually.
    The result was a severe infection that cost me 5 times the price of the original full price quote for the extraction.
    QED given the choice of an inefficient government system, or expensive and limited private insurance system subject to myriad rules applied by Insurers not medical professionals as to whether I could get treatment,
    You can understand maybe why I think you might just be wrong in this carte blanche reasoning.

    August 15, 2009 at 2:59 am |
  12. Newt Chamberlain

    I worry for this country when citizens believe that to quote Steve, "its plain to see they(the government) can't do anything without making a total mess out of it. All of them are a bunch of low life,s..." How sad Steve that you have to live in a country were the government is totalty inept–do people really belive that–if no govenment what? What concerns me even more is the represenitive from Ga. who has backed off what was a pefectly good idea, living will's & medical counceling about the preparation for end of life and spread an untruth that some sort gov.t death committee is in the proposed Health Care Bill. Talk about throwing Grannie under the Bus. To approach that time with out your wishes known is the ultimate loss of your individual rights, to spread misinformation to score politically is beyond description.

    August 15, 2009 at 12:27 am |
  13. Stephen F. Phillips-Scott

    Retort: to Steve: "...I don't really want the government running my healthcare. Because it,'s plain to see they can.t do anything without making a total mess out of it." Excuse me, but do you mean like Iraq war programs or NASA space exploration? Also, are you aware that the money you want spent on "things more important" such as schools are government run, at the state level.

    Do you have any real and firm examples to back you wide and sweeping feelings and claims , e.g., "All of them are a bunch of low life,s" ( "All" is an absolute-you can't trust "all" in government? Not even your neighbor who may one of millions who work for and are in government as a civil servant?)...."and give to everyone except the people that need it the most." Really? So, you do believe that the federal government should be giving people money assistance to poor people at taxpayer expense? Or, are you upset because you didn't make the corporate bail-out list?

    August 14, 2009 at 11:02 pm |
  14. Lori

    is access to affordable quality care too much to ask? regulating insurance companies ability to cut care for those who had paid simply because they get ill? time to read the fine print and understand the good health means stopping insanity of health as a consumer product and promote family health for every family. Sad time to be ill in America. The absence of any discussion on health promotion and prevention is scary. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke prevention.

    August 14, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  15. Patty

    How ironic that Sonja McDonald is sitting in a dental chair in a clinic that is funded at least 50% (per the journalist's report) by the government and at the same time she does not want government in her health care. It already is!
    I believe what Sonja should have said is "I don't want government run health care if it means I would have to pay for it. I like it just the way it is for me......free".

    August 14, 2009 at 9:11 pm |
  16. Terri from Atlanta

    I wish Ali Velshi could explain on CNN how the private insurance
    companies could compete with the public option since the private
    insurance companies need to make a profit, and the government-
    run public option would not.

    August 14, 2009 at 8:53 pm |
  17. Ron San Bruno, Ca

    I believe that Sojna has a legitmate concern.let's look at it this way, Sonja has tooth decay and we realize that something should be done about it. If Sonja had a bad tooth the longer she put it off the worse it got. Somewhere along the line she had to make a decision either fix the hole or let it get bigger. Sometimes fear of a dentist can cause great pain and loss in the long run.My heart goes out too Sonja because I have false teeth because I was affraid of the dentist Fear can rot your teeth and keep you from seeing the bigger picture. Health care is coming now or later, like it or not. Why wait until its too late. Love ya Sonja, don't be affraid ,that's what the Fearer's want.

    August 14, 2009 at 7:51 pm |
  18. Steve

    I,am not trying to get off the subject but i don,t really want the goverment running my healthcare.Because it,s plain to see they can,t do anything without making a total mess out of it.All of them are a bunch of low life,s and they aren,t going to live what they preach.Just steal from all the hard working people and give to everyone except the people that need it the most.They just spend spend and spend and don,t think about where it comes from or how it will be repaid.That,s like they have all this money going out to nascar for racing using the border patrol/ army /national guard /airforce/and so on.But that is taxpayers money pating for that and it could be used for better thing,s.They spend a lot of money on that that could be used for schools or other things more important.

    August 14, 2009 at 6:42 pm |
  19. Annie Kate

    Over the years of raising my children I have come into contact with quite a few government run programs – most of which ran smoothly, were targeted to a specific need, and which helped my children and myself out when we couldn't pay for services ourselves. An example is the WIC (Womens, Infants, Children) program which supplies to pregnant women and new mothers and their babies supplemental diary products, etc. that one needs in pregnancy or after birth – things like cheese, milk, orange juice, baby formula, etc. If it had not been for that program I am not sure how I would have made ends meet during those times. Another program was the state program to supply children's immunizations to those who could not pay the cost – my children all went to the public health department where they received their innoculations free of charge. When I was a child the federal government ran the drive to get everyone immunized for polio – despite the long lines this program worked wonderfully and made polio pretty much a thing of the past.

    I think government can support a health care without ruining it or turning it into a bureaucratic nightmare. The innoculationi program and the WIC program are shining examples of that. We can at least try it for a year or so and see how it works – if it doesn't work then we can amend it but lets not let our children and fellow citizens continue to go without any longer. .

    August 14, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  20. Henry

    I honestly believe in president obama's ability to fix the economy.don't let us fault or blame one another for our mess w've created ourself over the years

    August 14, 2009 at 6:24 pm |
  21. Lisa in CA

    "As a senior adviser to the president told me the other day, White House officials realize the president's opponents have done an effective job of whipping up anti-government sentiment - on a range of issues like the auto bailouts and bank bailouts - to make people very suspicious of the government's motives on health care. That's a big reason why the president's push is in trouble and it's unclear whether he can pull out a comeback victory."

    And herein lies the problem - the senior advisor is under the wrong impression. The presiden'ts opponents have not really done anything to "whip up" anti-government sentiment; they have simply capitalized on the existing sentiment.

    We were promised change but instead got "business as usual". We, the people, need the bailout -not the financial institutes. If we were given the money directly, we would have the economy making a strong comeback, getting right in our mortgages, paying down debt (which in turn gives money to the banks to loan), buying cars and toys. Instead, the continued theory of "top down" was once again employed and once again not successful.

    Perhaps it would behoove the president to actually LISTEN to the people for a change and NOT the advisors/experts. This would truly be change ... for the better.

    I don't know what reality these politicians and their advisors live in, but it certainly isn't mine.

    August 14, 2009 at 5:01 pm |