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President Obama Speaks in Minneapolis About Health Care Reform; Conservatives and Liberals Debate Merits of Health Care Proposals
Aired September 12, 2009 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Overhauling health care is the major focus on no less than three fronts today. President Obama, as you see on the right hand side of your screen is expected to reveal more details about his plans at this rally in Minnesota as well as, take a look right now, Democrats are taking their support of health care reform on the road in Florida.
The Democratic National Committee is sponsoring a bus tour with rallying stops in Orlando and Tampa, today. Then in Washington, the nation's capital, activists on the other side of the issue of health care reform or at least the president's plan waving flags and signs up and down Pennsylvania Avenue.
You are looking at live pictures of the tea party protestors. It's a conglomeration of a number of organizations that are protesting there, many of them in opposition of what they believe big government growing even bigger.
So right now you are seeing President Obama there in Minneapolis at the Target Center. He is hoping to impress upon folks here in Minnesota his plans for health care reform. You heard the president's address Wednesday night. Now he's reiterating some of those messages.
Why Minnesota, or at least why Minneapolis, when apparently the uninsured rate is the lowest there in the nation -- 9 percent don't have health care. However, he is trying to reach the middle class in his radio address and Internet address earlier today, saying that people who are under 21, he is trying to put in place a plan to insure that those under 21 would be able to maintain their health care insurance, and health care reform would help ensure that.
Let's listen in.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Before I do anything else, I want to get to very important news. I hear the Gophers have their home opener in their brand-new stadium a little later today.
I want the make sure you know, I wish the Gophers luck.
But, they are playing Air Force, and I have to fly back home on one of their planes in a few hours.
So I have to be careful about what I say.
We've got some wonderful people here today with me. And I just want to make some special acknowledgements. First of all, your two outstanding senators, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Al Franken are in the house.
My great friend, who was part of the "Obama for President" movement before I decided to run for president, R.T. Ryback, mayor of Minneapolis.
The mayor of the great city of St. Paul, Chris Coleman is in the house.
Your attorney general, Laurie Swanson is in the house.
Your state auditor is Rebecca Otto is here, and one of the finest public servants in the country, my secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius is here.
Also, the biggest Obama fan in the country is in the house.
I love this guy. Michelle has a picture where she looks like Sasha next to this guy.
He's a great supporter and it's great to see you, again.
You know, I don't know if any of you caught it on television. You may have been watching "So you Think you can Dance."
But, Michelle loves that show, by the way.
But, the other night, I gave a speech to Congress about health care.
And I have to say, I can already see this crowd is a lot more fun.
But, listen. I didn't go to Congress just to speak to senators or representatives. I went to speak on behalf of the American people, because ...
... you see, I ran for office because I believe it was time for a government that once again made possible the dreams of middle class Americans, that we're looking at for ordinary people.
A government that understands the struggles you wrestle with at the kitchen table when going through the bills or when you're lying awake at night the at the end of a long day, trying to figure out what to do with health care for your children or what you are going to do about the situation with your mortgage, worrying about how stable your job is and what's happening with the economy, seniors who are worrying about your retirement security.
You know and I know that health care is one of those fundamental struggles, because if you are one of the tens of millions of Americans who have no health insurance, you live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy.
And contrary to some of the myths out there, these aren't primarily people deep in poverty. A lot of those folks are on Medicaid. These are people working every day. These are middle class Americans.
Maybe -- maybe your employer doesn't offer coverage. Maybe you are self-employed and you can't afford it because it costs you three times more in the marketplace than it does for big companies.
Maybe you're one of the millions of Americans who are denied coverage because of a previous illness or condition -- no fault of your own, but insurance companies decide it's too risky or too expensive for you to cover.
In the last 12 months alone, 6 million more Americans lost their health insurance, 6 million more.
Today, we received more disturbing news. A new report from the Treasury Department found that nearly half of all Americans under 65 will lose their health coverage at some point over the next ten years.
Think about that.
More than one-third will go out -- will go without coverage for longer than one year. We got to do something.
We've got to do something because it can happen to anyone. There but for the grace of god go I. It could happen to anyone.
But I don't need to tell you that our health care problems don't stop with the uninsured. How many of you, who have insurance are ever worried you might lose it if you lost your job or changed jobs or had to move?
How many stories have you heard about folks whose insurance companies decided to drop their coverage or water it down when they get sick and needed it the most?
How many of you know somebody who paid their premiums every month to find out their insurance company wouldn't cover the full cost of their care like they thought they would get?
We've all heard these stories.
There's the father I met in Colorado whose child was diagnosed with severe hemophilia the day after he was born. They had insurance, but there was a cap on their coverage. So once the child's medical bills began to pile up, the father was left to frantically search for another option or face tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Another women from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because, they said, she forget to declare a case of acne -- true story. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her cancer had more than doubled in size.
Small business people -- I got a letter this week from a small businessman. He said "I don't know what to do. I have always provided insurance. But here, the attached bill shows premiums have gone up 48 percent in the last year. And I think I'm probably going to have to stop providing health insurance for my employees. I don't want to, but I don't have a choice."
These stories are wrong. They are heartbreaking. Nobody should be treated that way in the United States of America, and that's why we are going to bring about change this year.
It has now been nearly a century since Teddy Roosevelt called for health reform. It's been attempted by nearly every president in Congress since. And our failure to get it done, year after year, decade after decade, it has been a burden on families, on businesses, and on taxpayers, and we can't stand it any longer, we can't sustain it any longer.
If we do nothing, your premiums will continue to rise faster than your wages. If we do nothing, more businesses will close down, fewer will face -- fewer will be able to open in the first place. If we do nothing, we will eventually spend more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined.
That's not an option for the United States of America.
So Minnesota, I may not be the first president to take up the cause of health care reform, but I'm determined to be the last. We are going to get it done this year.
We are going to get it done this year.
The good news, here's the good news. We are closer now to reform than we have ever been. We debated this issue for better than a year now. There's actually some solid agreement on about 80 percent of what needs to be done. That's never happened before.
We have got -- our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses and hospitals and seniors groups.
Even drug companies, many of whom were opposed to reform in the past, this time they recognize this is not going to be stopped. We have got to get on board.
Now, what we have also seen in the last few months is the same partisan spectacle that has left so many of you disappointed in Washington for so long.
We have heard scare tactics instead of honest debate. Too many have used this opportunity to score short term political points instead of working together to solve long term challenges.
I don't know if you agree with me, but I think the time for bickering is over.
The time for games is past. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to deliver on health care for every American.
CROWD: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
OBAMA: Now, because, even after the speech, there's been a lot of misinformation out there.
I want you to know about this plan that I announced on Wednesday so when you talk to your neighbors and your friends, at you're at the water cooler or buying Starbucks or whatever it is that you're doing, I want you to be able to say to people here is what's going on.
The plan I announced will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance.
It will provide insurance to those who don't.
And, it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.
Let me give you some details. First of all, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or you have Medicare or Medicaid or the V.A., nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change your coverage or your doctor. I want you to be clear about that.
Let me repeat. Nothing in this plan requires you to change what you have if you are happy with it.
What this plan will do will make your insurance work better for you.
So under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a preexisting condition.
When I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it the most.
They will no longer be able to place an arbitrary cap on what you can receive in a year or lifetime.
We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out of pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, nobody should go broke because they got sick.
(APPLAUSE) And insurance companies -- insurance companies will be required to cover, at no extra charge, routine check ups and preventive care like mammograms and colonoscopies, because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer or colon cancer before they get worse. That's the expense that saves money, that saves lives.
Now, if you are one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan is going to finally offer you affordable choices. So if you lose your job or change jobs or want to start a business, you'll be able to get coverage.
You will have confidence that affordable coverage is out there for you, and we will do this not, contrary to what folks say, by some government takeover of health care.
We will do this by setting up a new insurance exchange, a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for an affordable health care plan that works for them, and because they will be one big group, these uninsured Americans will have the leverage to drive down costs and get a much better deal they get right now.
That's how large companies do it. That's how government employees get their health insurance. That's how members of Congress get good deals on their insurance. You should get the same deal that members of Congress get.
Now, if you still can't afford the lower price insurance available in the exchange, we're going to provide you or a small business owner tax credits so they can do it.
And in the first few years it takes to set up the change, because it will take a few years to get this all set up even after it passes. But in the meantime, we want to make sure people get some immediate help.
So we are going to offer Americans with preexisting conditions who can't get coverage right now, we want to give them low cost coverage that provide them protection if they become seriously ill.
Now, I've also said one of the options in the insurance exchange, one of the options, most of the folks who are going to be offering insurance through the exchange are going to be private insurers -- Blue cross, Blue Shield, Aetna, all these. I think one of the options should be public insurance option.
(APPLAUSE) Now, let me be clear. Let me be clear. Let me be clear. It would only be an option. Nobody would be forced to choose it. No one with insurance would be affected by it.
But what it would do is provide more choice and more competition. It would keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better.
I mean, think about it. It's the same way the public colleges and universities provide choice and competition to students. That doesn't inhibit private colleges and universities from thriving out there. The same should be true on the health care front.
Now, Minnesota, I have said that I'm open to different ideas on how to set this up. But I'm not going to back down from the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we're going to provide you a choice.
And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the coverage you need. That's a promise I will make.
Now, a lot of you might think this plan sounds good, or when you're talking to your friends or neighbors they might say, yes, that sounds all right, but how are you going to pay for it?
And that's a legitimate concern. We have -- we inherited some big deficits and some big debt. And we have had a big economic crisis that is has required us to take some extraordinary steps. So we are going to have to get control of our federal budget. We have to do it. So, it's a legitimate question.
But here is what you need to know. First of all, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits, either now or in the future, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Part of the reason I face these trillion dollar deficits when I walk into the door of the White House is because there were a lot of initiatives over the last decade that were not paid for, from the Iraq war to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make the same mistakes when it comes to health care.
Second of all, we have estimated most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system, money that's already been spent, but spent badly, wasted and abused.
Right now too much of your taxpayer dollars and too much of your savings, frankly, are spent on health care that doesn't make us healthy. That's not my judgment. That's the judgment of medical experts and doctors and nurses, health care professionals all across the country.
We love nurses, I love them.
As I said on Wednesday night, this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.
And Medicare is one of the issues that has been really distorted in the debate. I spoke directly to seniors on Wednesday. I want to repeat what I said.
We have stood up for four decades for the principles that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with medical bills they can't pay.
That's the essence of Medicare. That's how Medicare was born. It remains a sacred trust. It needs to be passed on from one generation to the next.
That's why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan, not one dollar. We will not be lowering benefits for senior citizens.
The only thing that we will be doing is eliminating hundreds of billions of dollars of waste and fraud as well as subsidies that are going to insurance company HMOs, subsidies they have their profits, but don't include care.
The other thing we want to do is we want to create an independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead.
And that's going to insure that American seniors get the benefits that they have been promised. We'll insure that Medicare is there for future generations.
And we can use some of the savings we get to fill the gap of costs on prescription drugs that so many seniors are struggling with. We can save them thousands of dollars on prescription drug costs. That's what the plan will do for senior citizens.
So don't pay attention to the scary stories about how your benefits will be cut. That will not happen on my watch. In fact, the folks making the accusations, they are the ones who've been talking about cutting Medicare in the past. I will protect Medicare. (APPLAUSE)
And here is the best thing, and this is important, especially for Minnesota. Because Medicare is such a big part of the health care system, making that program more efficient can help usher in changes in the way we deliver health care that reduces costs for everybody.
We have long known places, including Minnesota, offer high quality care at costs below average. Look at -- look at -- look at what the Mayo Clinic is able to do. It's got the best quality and the lowest costs than just about any system in the country.
So, what we want to do is we want to help the whole country learn from what Mayo is doing. We want to help the whole country learn the good things going on in Minnesota. It will save everybody money.
The commission can help encourage the adoption of common sense best practices, everything from reducing infection rates for hospitals to helping teach doctors to work together so when you go to the doctor office, you don't have a take a test from each doctor. You take a test and they email it to every other doctor. Common sense stuff like that.
Now, this is the plan I'm proposing. It incorporates ideas from Democrats and Republicans. And I'm going to keep on seeking common ground in the weeks ahead.
And I've said to everybody in Congress, if you come to me with a set of serious proposals, I'm going to be there to listen and my door is going to be open.
But I also said, and some of your heard me on Wednesday night, I will not waste time with people who think it's good politics to kill health care.
I'm not going to allow the special interest to use the same old tactics to keep things the way they are. I'm not going to let people misrepresent what's in my plan.
I will not accept the status quo. Not this time. Not now.
Minnesota, we are closer to reform than we have ever been before, but this is the hard part. This is when the special interests and insurance companies and the folks who think this is a good way to bring Obama down, this is when they are going to fight with everything they've got. This is when they will spread all kind of wild rumors designed to scare and intimidate people.
That's why I need your help.
CROWD: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
OBAMA: You know, there have been some of the pundits in Washington who have been saying,well, maybe you have been trying to do too much.
Maybe you are pushing too far, too fast.
OBAMA: And I try to remind them. I say listen, I never said change would be easy. Change is hard. It's always been hard. When FDR -- when FDR decided that Social Security was something seniors needed, you know what happened? They called it socialism. But senior citizens decided that, you know what, if I have protection in my golden years, that's something that's worth fighting for.
When Medicare -- when Medicare was introduced as an idea, they said this is going to be a government takeover, Medicare. But imagine what seniors would be dealing with now if they didn't have Medicare.
Every time we have made progress, it's because ordinary people banded together and they stood up and they said we have to make progress, and we're going to push and we're going to prod until Washington finally reacts, finally responds.
I've always believed -- because I've always believed change doesn't come from the top down, it comes from the bottom up. It doesn't start in Washington, D.C. It begins in places like Minneapolis. It begins in places like St. Paul. It begins with you sharing your stories, fighting for something better. That's how change happens. That's what's happening right now.
CROWD: Yes, we can! Yes, we can.
OBAMA: So, I asked you at the beginning of the rally whether you were fired up.
Some of you may have heard where that story comes from. But, for those of you who don't know, I want to just tell this story real quick. My staff loves this story, so they always tell me "tell that story."
But, it bares on what's happening with health care today. Back in the beginning when I was running for president, nobody thought I could win. Nobody could pronounce my name.
Nobody except R.T. (ph) That was the only person who believed.
So, I went down to -- it was at the beginning of the campaign. I went to South Carolina to a legislative conference where I was supposed to be one of the speakers. And I was sitting next to a state representative there. Nobody was that excited to see me. But I really needed support and endorsements because South Carolina was an early state.
So I said to the state representative, "Will you endorse my campaign." She looked at me and she said "I'll endorse your campaign if you come to my hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina."
So, I had had some wine and I was feeling kind of desperate. I said, "Yes, I'll come to greenwood be happy to do it."
Only to find out that Greenwood is like an hour and a half from every place else. You can't fly into greenwood.
About a month later I had been campaigning in Iowa for weeks. I hadn't seen my family -- do I have Iowa folks in the house?
I'm exhausted. I get to Greenville, South Carolina about midnight. I get to the hotel at 1:00. I'm dragging to the hotel. I'm carrying my bags, ready to hit the pillow. And suddenly my staff says, sir? I said "What?"
They said you have to be in the car at 6:30 tomorrow -- in the morning.
I said, "Why is that?" They said "Because you have to go to Greenwood like you promised."
Next morning, I wake up and I feel awful. I feel terrible. I'm exhausted. I stagger over to the window to pull open the blinds, and it's pouring down rain outside, terrible day.
I go out and get some coffee and open up the newspaper. Bad story about me in the "New York times." (LAUGHTER)
I pack up. I go downstairs. As I'm walking to the car, my umbrella blows open and I get drenched.
So, by the time I'm in the car, I'm wet and I'm sleepy and I'm mad.
I drive, and we drive and drive and drive. Hour and a half we just keep on driving.
Finally, we get to greenwood, only you don't know you are in Greenwood, right away. It's not like Minneapolis.
So, there's a little field house in a park. We go into the field house. I walk in and get a little more wet. I walk in, and Lo and behold, 20 people there, 20 people. And I'm already thinking about the fact I have another hour and a half I have to drive back.
And they are all kind of damp and they don't look like they are that happy to be there, and the state rep had dragged them to the meeting.
That's OK. I have a job to do. I'm running for president. I shake their hand and say how do you do? What do you do? Nice to meet you.
Suddenly, I hear a voice behind me. "Fire it up!" I almost jump out of my shoes.
But everybody else acts like this is normal. And they all say fire it up. Then I hear someone say "Ready to go." And the people around me, they just say "Ready to go."
I don't know what's going on. So I look behind me, and there's this little woman there, she's about 5'2" or 5'3", 50 or 60 years old. And she looks like she's dressed for church. She's got a big church hat.
And she's just grinning at me, just smiling at me. And she points at me and says "Fire it up!"
Wait, the story gets better. It turns out that she's a city councilwoman from Greenwood, Edith (ph) Child, that's her name, and she is also known as "the chant lady" because she does this chant wherever she goes. She goes "Fire it up! Fire it up! Ready to go. Ready to go."
And she does this at every event she goes to.
By the way, we also discovered later she moonlights as a private detective, but that's a true story, true story.
But, she's well known for her chant. So, for the next five minutes, she starts chanting. She says fire it up! They say fire it up! Ready to go! Ready to go! And this just keeps on going on.
And I realize I'm being up staged by this woman.
And she's getting all the attention. And I'm standing there looking at my staff, and they are shrugging their shoulders.
But here is the thing, Minneapolis. After about a minute, maybe two, I'm feeling kind of fired up.
I'm feeling ...
I'm feeling like I'm ready to go.
And, so, for the rest of the day, every time I saw my staff, I'd say are you fired up? They'd say I'm fired up. Are you ready to go? They'd say I'm ready to go.
And it goes to show you how one voice can change a room. And if it changes a room, it can change a city. If it can change a city, it can change a state. If it can change a state, it can changes a nation. If it can change the nation, it can change the world.
It can bring health care to every American. It can lower our costs. It can make you are secure. I want to know, Minnesota, are you fired up? Ready to go? Fired up?
CROWD: Fired up!
OBAMA: Ready to go!
CROWD: Ready to go! OBAMA: They can't stop us. Let's go get this done.
Thank you, everybody. God bless you.
WHITFIELD: President Barack Obama there at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis sounding like he's on the campaign trail for health care reform.
He's spreading his message, reiterating the message that the nation heard Wednesday night, reiterating that he's hoping Republicans and Democrats will get together under his guidance for a health care reform plan he sees fit.
He says he wants to incorporate the ideas to improve the care, regulate insurers, and expand coverage to everyone.
President Obama there in Minneapolis getting quite the reception there from people who are in support of his idea of health care reform.
Later on this hour we'll be talking more about health care reform with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathryn Sebelius.
And of course you know, not everyone is onboard. We're also going to be talking to South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint who has some ideas about what kind of health care reform he would like to see in place, something that he has been passionate about it for many years.
However, he says, he does not, and he says quite frankly, he does not like what the president is proposing thus far. We'll have that later on in this hour.
WHITFIELD: Right now, the other side of the health care debate/argument -- organizers have rolled into Washington D.C., a conglomeration of a number of organizations that don't like the idea of big government and who also say that government is getting even bigger, and many of whom have taken a stand in opposition outright about the president's health care reform plan.
So our CNN's Kate Bolduan is right there in the middle of it all. And Kate, exactly what is the point of contention right now. What's being talked about?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There many things being talked about now. If you take a look real quick, Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana is speaking about fiscal conservatism, something he feels strongly about.
You can see the crowd behind me. There were massive amounts of people walking the streets. (INAUDIBLE)
A very strong anti-government sentiment, a very strong ...
Many people protesting and speaking out against president Obama's current proposal for health care overhaul as well just (inaudible) as many people protesting ...
WHITFIELD: All right, Kate Bolduan there in the thick of it all. Very difficult to hear you, Kate, because -- but that is a pretty big crowd behind you. Thanks so much.
Also in the crowd, Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. I asked him before President Obama's speech in Minneapolis just where the senator stands on health care reform.
WHITFIELD: Are you pushing for health care reform?
SEN. JIM DEMINT, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I've been supporting health care reform since I have been in Congress, but not government takeover. We've got a lot of good alternatives, and we hope the rally today will get the president to listen to some of them.
WHITFIELD: What are the alternatives? Because I noticed on your website you talked about not liking the president's plan outlined on Wednesday. You said you heard the same thing you have heard before, more government control, more regulation, more mandates, more taxes.
When the president outlined that he would cut health care cost, improve care, regulate insurers to protect consumers while expanding coverage to millions of Americans who don't have it, and at the same time it would not increase the budget deficit.
So, where are the differences, in your view?
DEMINT: The difference is, first of all, the federal government is not capable of doing what the president wants to do. There's some good reform such as fair tax treatment for people.
We give deductions to businesses for offering insurance, but not when people buy it. My plan gives a $5,000 tax credit to people who buy their own health insurance. We need also need interstate competition between insurance companies. We don't need a public plan to compete with insurance companies.
We need tort reform. The president won't even consider that in the bill right now. He's going to start a pilot project, but that's just a way to get the issue off the table.
We need small business plans that allow businesses to pool together all their employees and buy health care all across the nation.
The president voted against that and all the alternatives I mentioned when he was in the Senate. We have to get him to focus on fixing what's broken and not replacing what's working.
WHITFIELD: Is there a plan that people can -- both sides can agree on for the most part and get something going by the end of this year?
DEMINT: I think the only way to find agreement if the president sets his plan aside and really starts working with us. The only plan he has been willing to discuss is really what type of government plan do we want to have? It's the only debate he's willing to have. He won't even discuss any free market principles, giving people more choices, doing the things we need to do...
WHITFIELD: Didn't we just hear him say on Wednesday this is about giving more choices, particularly if you don't have health care insurance at all you now have a choice, one that would guarantee your coverage?
DEMINT: My plan would give them more choices. His plan would make people who have insurance lose that insurance.
There's no question about it. Outside analysts know that if we have a government plan that's private plans are going to go out of business and people are going to lose their insurance.
There is nothing in our history as a federal government that shows we can actually manage something this complex effectively. It doesn't make sense to throw out what's working. We need to just make it work better.
WHITFIELD: All right, that was Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is also straight ahead. She's in Minneapolis with the president as he just made his almost like a campaign speech for health care reform. She'll be joining us momentarily.
And life after 9/11 is the subject of an hour today. In the "CNN Newsroom," our focus, national security -- is the nation safer since the attacks eight years ago?
Plus, do some of the safeguards in place to protect this country infringe on your civil liberties? The state of U.S. security, a special hour today at 4:00 eastern time.
WHITFIELD: All right, top stories this hour.
A deadly day for troops in Afghanistan. Military officials say two American service members were killed when their patrol struck a roadside bomb in an eastern province. No other details have been released.
And Vice President Joe Biden joins thousands of mourners at Dodger stadium today to attend a memorial for two California firefighters hailed as heroes. The men were killer battling the largest wildfire in the history of Los Angeles County.
The station fire has destroyed dozens of homes and scorched more than 250 square miles. Investigators have determined the cause is arson.
And 24-year-old Yale graduate student Annie Le was supposed to get married tomorrow, but her wedding is now on hold. No one has seen Le since Tuesday when she was late spotted outside the university's medical school.
Yale is now offering a $10,000 reward on the information on her whereabouts. And the FBI has set up a tip line. The number is 877- 503-1950.
Eight years after the 9/11 attacks Americans turn now to show that they haven't forgotten.
In Pennsylvania, where 40 people died in the crash of United Airlines flight 93, bagpipes played and bells rang. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell gave the keynote speech.
And outside Washington, D.C., President Obama placed a wreath at a cemetery at a memorial dedicated to the 184 people killed in the attack at the Pentagon.
And in New York City, where more than 2,700 people died, two towers of light marked the site where the World Trade Center buildings once stood.
And the 4:00 hour, we're going to focus on national security. Do you believe U.S. security is better, improved post 9/11? We're looking for your comments, your questions. Send to CNN.com/news at my blog, Fredricka, and my Facebook. And we'll get some of your comments on the air at 4:00 eastern hour.
Let's talk again about health care reform. Just moments ago, we saw President Obama in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a huge crowd of supporters there. He reiterated a lot of what we heard Wednesday night during the address to the joint Congress.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is also with us right now. The president had recognized that you were in the audience.
Let's talk a little bit about who was there at the Target Center there in Minneapolis? Certainly it seems like everyone was in support. Who got the invitation to come?
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Fredricka, I don't know exactly who got invitations, but there were tens of thousands of people here, and there were people at the airport and people all along the road who clearly very excited about this president and even more so excited about the opportunity to reform our health care system.
WHITFIELD: And while it's very important in your view as well as the White House view that there is American support, really at the crux of the matter is the need for Congressional support for what the president has been outlining.
Does he feel that after Wednesday's address that he now has perhaps the support from the moderate and conservative Democrats he needs in order to get a plan passed?
SEBELIUS: I have been talking to members of Congress for a couple months. And I have to tell you, he hit a homerun on Wednesday night. I think that what I've heard from people is very, very positive.
There are big majorities in the House and Senate who are ready to move on health reform legislation. Chairman Baucus said we will have a finance committee bill next week. Four of the five committees have already finished their work. They are ready to go.
And I think calling on the American people and reminding them how close we are and spelling what is in the plan, safety and security for those Americans who have health coverage, making sure that they don't get dumped out or locked out of their plan by insurance companies because of a health condition or gender or age.
And affordable coverage for Americans who don't, lower costs for everybody so we don't keep bankrupting families and breaking the bank in terms of government budgets and business budgets.
And also, raising the quality. I'm here in Minnesota with the president, and the Mayo Clinic is one of the best examples in the country of lower cost but high quality care. We have to make sure all Americans have access to that.
WHITFIELD: The president said he wants this to be a bipartisanship plan, that his door is open, but at the same time he doesn't want to hear from anyone who is trying to waste his time about ideas in which to defeat the plan.
Is the president feeling like at this juncture while he's reiterating almost campaign style his message about health care reform, there's a pretty hardcore contingent of people who are in opposition of his plan who continue to take to the air waves.
Does the president feel like he's spending more time in clean up mode trying to reiterate his message because the message from his opponent seems to be sticking, if you will, a little bit more than his messages?
SEBELIUS: I think, Fredricka, what you saw is when Congress went on recess, there was a lot of attempt to confuse and scare and frighten people into inaction, sticking with the status quo, staying with the special interests who really have a lock on the current system.
I think what the president was able to do Wednesday night was restart the momentum. We have come further in this discussion than ever before in the history of the United States.
I think that's why the opposition is raising their voices and raising their battle cry, because they know that this bill can be passed, and it will actually mean health reform that's been talked about since Teddy Roosevelt's day.
So the president will continue to be very clear, what's in the plan, what's not in the plan, and make sure that Congress continues to move to produce health reform this year.
WHITFIELD: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, thanks s much for joining us for Minneapolis.
SEBELIUS: Sure, great to talk to you.
WHITFIELD: President Obama is on the road for health care reform today. But conservatives are pushing back.
The president just finished a speech at the Target Center in Minneapolis where he told a cheering crowd health care is a fundamental right. There was a smaller pro-reform rally at the central Florida Fairgrounds Pavilion in Orlando.
But there was also a big protest in the nation's capital, where tens of thousands of conservatives demonstrated their disgust for what they consider out of control government spending.