WASHINGTON -- President Obama vigorously defended his landmark health care overhaul Friday during a fund-raising speech to about 4,500 supporters at the University of Vermont in Burlington.
With his sleeves rolled up, Obama outlined a laundry list of accomplishments during his first term, including withdrawing troops from Iraq, ending the ban on gays in the military, reforming student loans to make college more affordable, and rescuing an auto industry on the verge of collapse.
“We’ve begun to see what change looks like,” Obama said, adding later, “And yes, change is the health care reform that we passed after over a century of trying, reform that will finally ensure that in the United States of America, no one will go broke just because they get sick.”
The future of Obama’s 2010 health reform bill hangs in jeopardy following three days of Supreme Court arguments this week. The court is expected to issue a decision in late June on whether elements of the bill -- including the mandate that nearly everyone obtain health insurance or pay a penalty starting 2014-- are constitutional.
Obama did not reference the court case in his speech but ticked off a litany of benefits that Americans are already experiencing as a result of the law: Millions of young people now have insurance because they are allowed to stay on their parents’ health plans until they are 26; seniors enrolled in Medicare are paying less for prescription drugs; people are receiving preventative care they did not get before; and sickly Americans can no longer be denied health coverage when they need it the most.
Obama’s health care remarks were met by wild applause and whistles from the audience.
“None of this has been easy,” Obama said. “We’ve had a little resistance on the other side.”
He went on to criticize Republicans for continuing to advocate for tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of education and health care.
“Their philosophy is you are on your own,” Obama said. “In the United States of America, we are greater together than we are on our own.”
“This is a make or break moment for the middle class,” he said as he thrust both hands forward for emphasis. “If you’re willing to work harder in this election than you did in the last one, I promise you, change will come . . . We will finish what we started in 2008. Fight with me and press on with me.”
General admission tickets for the sold-out event started at $100 per person, with $44 student tickets available.
Obama spoke earlier in the day to a more intimate crowd of 100 at a private luncheon at the Sheraton Burlington, where tickets started at $7,500 a pop.
Obama is the first sitting president to visit Vermont since President Clinton did in 1995.
Following his campaign stops in Vermont, the president jetted to Maine for two more campaign appearances.