Obama's Health Care Push Faces Citizens' Mounting Concern Over Deficit

Across the country, people are wondering how to pay for new reform.

ByABC News
August 12, 2009, 7:07 AM

Aug. 12, 2009— -- With mounting criticism of the Democrats' push for health care overhaul, President Barack Obama is trying to regain the momentum.

Yet, regaining the momentum may become increasingly difficult in light of the soaring federal deficit, which increased by $180 billion in July alone. At a record $1.27 trillion, the deficit is heading toward $2 trillion by the end of the fiscal year. Citizens at town hall meetings are expressing concern over the government's ability to pay for health care reform without adding to the deficit.

"The initial cost is over a trillion dollars for a down payment. Who is going to pay for this bill?" a woman shouted at Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., at a town hall meeting in Lebanon, Pa., yesterday. "My children and my grandchildren are going to pay for this bill."

Supporters of the president's health care reform push point out that spiraling health care costs in Medicare and Medicaid are a huge part of the deficit problem, and reform is necessary to tackle the issue.

"Health care reform that brings down the growth rate of health care costs will help our children and grandchildren in affording health care and having less debt," said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., at a town hall in Hagerstown, Md., today.

"I happen to agree very strongly with frustration related to the deficits," Cardin said. "I believe very strongly that we have to balance the federal budget. I voted to balance the federal budget, and that's why I have said -- and I'll repeat now for the fourth time; you wanna keep asking the question, fine -- I won't vote for a bill that will increase the deficit."

But skeptics say Congress so far has avoided making tough decisions over how to foot the bill.

"From what we're seeing so far, it doesn't look like they're tackling the real cost drivers of health care. And that means if they don't do it, it will make the deficit situation worse," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition.

"One of the things I worry about is whether Congress is up to making hard choices that would bring health care costs under control. It's not going to be easy to do, and Congress likes to take the path of least resistance," added Bixby.

The president has attempted to address citizens' concerns over a growing deficit.

"First of all, I said I won't sign a bill that adds to the deficit or the national debt. OK? So this will have to be paid for," he said Wednesday during a health care forum in Portsmouth, N.H.