August 15, 2009 / 10:06 AM / 10 years ago

Obama keeps heat on insurance firms in reform push

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama reignited his criticism of health insurance companies on Saturday, pledging his reforms would prevent firms from capping coverage or charging “outrageous” fees.

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands after a town hall meeting on healthcare inside a hangar at Gallatin Field in Belgrade, Montana, August 14, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing

During a town hall-style meeting in a conservative area of Colorado, a Western state that supported Obama in the 2008 election, the president continued his assault on insurance companies, which the White House has painted as being at the root of the country’s healthcare woes.

“No one in America should go broke because they get sick,” Obama said to loud applause from a mostly supportive crowd.

“Insurance companies will no longer be able to ... place an arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive or charge outrageous out-of-pocket expenses on top of your premiums,” he said.

Protesters and supporters lined up outside the school where the event took place, replaying similar scenes that have taken place at other town hall meetings on healthcare across the country.

Signs held by some of the protesters included “Obama care - chains you can believe in” — a play on the “change you can believe in” theme of Obama’s presidential campaign — and “Say no to government-run health care.”

In recent days, the president, a Democrat, has stepped up his attacks on insurance companies, saying they bear much of the blame for the country’s healthcare problems.

On Friday, Obama told a town hall event in Montana that insurance firms were holding the country hostage.

In his weekly radio address, released earlier on Saturday, Obama said U.S. healthcare worked better for insurance companies than for patients.

Obama, who is in the middle of a multi-state tour to promote his main domestic policy priority, also accused “special interests” of misleading Americans about aspects of the reform bills making their way through Congress.

“These are the stories that aren’t being told - stories of a healthcare system that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people,” he said in the address, referring to people he has met who have struggled with the current system.

“And that’s why we’re going to pass health insurance reform that finally holds the insurance companies accountable.”

Republicans and some Democrats have also raised concerns about the cost of the nearly $1 trillion overhaul to extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. Obama repeated on Friday his promise not to raise taxes on Americans making $250,000 a year or less in order to pay for the overhaul.

Editing by Todd Eastham

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