Updated at 2:55 p.m. ET with more information.
(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
After months of debate over health care reform, the final push to get a bill through Congress will need public support, President Obama said at a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
"I need your help if you want a health care system that works," the president said. "Knocking on doors, talking to neighbors. Let's get this done."
The president also pushed back against criticisms and distortions of his plans for health reform, including the infamous "death panel" myth. Mr. Obama made it clear he does not support "death panels
." However, as CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier
reports from Portsmouth, the idea has made many people angry
The notion of government bureaucrats denying care to patients stems from two health care proposals: The House Democrats' legislation would allow Medicare to pay for end-of-life consultations. Also, Mr. Obama has advocated
creating a medical advisory committee to oversee the costs of Medicare.
"In terms of these expert health panels -- this goes to the point of 'death panels,' that's what folks are calling it -- the idea is pretty straightforward," Mr. Obama said. "We've got a panel of experts --- health experts, doctors-- who can provide guildelines for what procedures work best... These aren't going to be forced on people, but they will help guide how the delivery system works so that you are getting a higher quality of care. And it turns out higher quality care often costs less."
The president also shot back at claims that such panels would lead to "rationing" of care, if not death panels. He said insurance companies already ration care.
"Why is it people would prefer people having insurance companies make those decisions rather than medical experts and doctors figuring out what are good deals for care?" he asked.
Mr. Obama acknowledged that there are many legitimate concerns and areas of disagreement over health care reform. For instance, he said it is legitimate for some people to be concerned a government-sponsored health care option, or "public plan," could run the private insurance industry out of business.
"That's a legitimate concern -- I disagree with it, but that's a legitimate debate to have," he said.
His underlying message, however, was that "the status quo is not working for you." He focused on the consumer protections that would be put in place through insurance industry regulations.
Mr. Obama said he does not think the government should meddle in people's health care decisions, "but I also don't think insurance company bureaucrats should be meddling."
Health care reform, he said, would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of a person's medical history and would also prevent them from dropping a person's coverage after he or she becomes sick. Out-of-pocket expenses would be limited.
Right now, the president said, "No one holds these companies accountable for these practices."
Mr. Obama also tried to counter arguments that health care reform will cost too much. He attacked critics in Congress -- who he said refer to him as "Big-Spending Obama," even though they signed former President George W. Bush's prescription drug bill, which has contributed to the current national debt.
"I'm proposing something that will be paid for, and they signed into law something wasn't," he said.
Though he attacked his critics, the president said he was still interested in pursuing bipartisan reform. He specifically praised the three Republican senators currently working on a bipartisan compromise -- Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Olympia Snow of Maine and Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
Still, Mr. Obama said, "The most important thing is getting it done for the American people."