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Published: Tuesday, 3/16/2010

Obama talk cites uninsured Ohioan

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - A northeast Ohio woman's cancer relapse formed the emotional centerpiece of President Obama's push for his health insurance reform bill in an appearance in this Cleveland suburb yesterday.

He highlighted the plight of Natoma Canfield, a Medina, Ohio, cancer survivor who came down with leukemia just two weeks ago after dropping an unaffordable health-care plan.

"When you hear people say 'start over' - I want you to think of Natoma. When you hear people saying that this isn't the 'right time' - think of what she's going through," Mr. Obama said.

"When you hear people talk about who's up and who's down in the polls - instead of what's right or what's wrong for the country - think of her and the millions of responsible people - working people - being hurt by today's system of health insurance," Mr. Obama said.

Sounding like the campaigner who won over Ohio in a closely fought presidential election in 2008, Mr. Obama is again trying to win over Ohio - or at least its elected Democrats.

Joining him on-stage were Reps.

Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland), who plans to vote no because the bill doesn't go far enough, and Betty Sutton (D., Barberton), who is undecided.

With him were three other Democratic Ohio representatives, Charlie Wilson (St. Clairsville), Tim Ryan (Niles), and Marge Fudge (Warrensville Heights), who also officially were undecided on the politically charged issue.

In his second visit to northeast Ohio in two months, the President spoke in the gym of the Ehrnfelt Recreation and Senior Center.

Mr. Obama was introduced by Connie Anderson, the sister of Ms. Canfield, a 50-year-old self-employed cleaning woman who paid $6,075 in insurance premiums last year, 16 years after having been diagnosed with cancer.

In her letter to the President dated Dec. 29, Ms. Canfield wrote, "I need your Health reform bill to help me!!! I simply can no longer afford to pay for my health care costs!!"

According to Ms. Canfield, she had the same insurance company for 11 years. During 2009 she had a $2,500 deductible, and paid $2,415 out of pocket. Her insurer paid only $935, she said, explaining that she dropped the coverage because her insurer raised her premium 40 percent. January was her last month on insurance.

The President said Ms. Canfield was in the hospital yesterday, having been diagnosed two weeks ago with leukemia, a form of cancer.

The bill would require most people to have insurance, would set up insurance marketplaces, would prohibit insurers from denying care based on a pre-existing condition, would offer subsidies for some people, and would give tax credits to businesses that buy insurance for employees.

He pegged the cost at $100 billion a year.

Protesters lined Royalton Road. Inside the gym, approximately 1,000 people cheered for the President.

One voice was heard calling out, "What's your plan for jobs?"

The President was also joined by Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

Jim Renacci, a Wadsworth, Ohio, Republican running against U.S. Rep. John Boccieri (D., Alliance) in the nearby 16th District, said polls show the bill is not popular with Ohioans.

"The Democrats in Washington either aren't listening or don't care and now they've planned to use [an] abusive legislative process to jam this bill that will impact one-sixth of the American economy down our throats," Mr. Renacci said.

Mr. Boccieri, who missed the presidential visit, is undecided and has been targeted by Republicans.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) yesterday voted to move the health-care legislation out of the budget committee, signalling likely support on the House floor. A spokesman said she was still trying to strengthen provisions prohibiting federal funding of abortion in the bill. Also serving on the budget committee but voting no was Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green).

In a statement, Mr. Latta called the budget committee vote the "first in a series of legislative gimmicks and procedures to drive this flawed health-care bill through Congress."

Republican Rob Portman, a former congressman running for the U.S. Senate, issued a statement saying the bill raises premiums, adds job-killing mandates, and will cost taxpayers in higher taxes.

Mr. Obama sought to dispel what he said was misinformation. "This proposal makes Medicare stronger, makes the coverage better, and makes its finances more secure. Anyone who says otherwise is misinformed - or is trying to misinform you," he said.

Two supporters at the rally in Strongsville said they were heartened by the President's words.

"It was a good speech. I hope he backs it up with courage," said Dave Firig, 53, a self-employed radio technician from Wadsworth who has health care through his wife's job.

Adriane Williams, 46, a nurse from Strongsville, said she hopes insurance reform passes for the benefit of people she serves in a hospital. "We take care of the people who have nothing. Diseases like hypertension and diabetes are running rampant because they aren't getting the basics," Ms. Williams said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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