Barack Obama has hit out at insurance firms as he battles against the “scare tactics” being used to block his proposed $1 trillion overhaul of the US healthcare system.
The president, at a meeting in New Hampshire, said Americans are too often “held hostage” by insurers who deny them cover or charge fees they cannot afford.
The attack was part of an attempt to counter claims he wants a government takeover of the healthcare system.
It has also been alleged his plan would create “death panels” to rule on whether older people get treatment.
Critics – including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin – have whipped up a fierce public debate over the reforms, which top Mr Obama’s domestic agenda.
Both opponents and supporters of the proposals gathered outside the meeting in Portsmouth.
Mr Obama’s supporters chanted “Yes, we can!” and waved signs declaring “Insurance companies are enemies of change” and “All Americans deserve affordable healthcare”.
Opponents carried banners saying “Obamacare, down the chute granny” and “Hands off my healthcare”.
Mr Obama says he wants to provide health cover for nearly 46 million uninsured Americans by reining in medical costs and regulating insurers.
But Republicans insist it will be far too expensive and the scope is too far-reaching.
Mrs Palin said last week the proposals would create government “death panels” that will decide ‘end-of-life’ issues for older Americans.
But Mr Obama countered: “For all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary is if we do nothing.”
He said his aim was to give people more information on end-of-life care, not “create death panels that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we decided it’s too expensive to let her live anymore”.
The president said: “Let’s disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that’s actually been proposed.”
In a new development, Mr Obama said the government may be able to get pharmaceutical companies to give back more than the $80bn already promised in prescription drug rebates.
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