Obama’s visit to Strongsville promotes bill

Kelly Petryszyn

President urges reform effort

As a bustling crowd awaited the appearance of President Barack Obama in the Walter F. Ehrnfelt Recreation and Senior Center in Strongsville yesterday, one boisterous voice yelled out “What do we want?” The crowd responded “Health care!” Then the voice sounded again and asked “When do we want it?” The crowd shouted “Now!” The chant continued and after a few rounds became a collective “Yes we can!”

Throughout Obama’s speech to promote the health care reform bill, the diverse crowd cheered with fists pumped in the air. A bold attendee even shouted out “I love you!” The president smiled, chuckled lightly and said, “I love you, too.”

Obama in strongsville

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This warmth was in stark contrast to the sides of state Route 82 near the entrance to the recreation center prior to the event. Protestors endured the damp weather as they picketed with signs that read, “Kill the Bill,” “Obamacare hotline: 1-800-UDEAD,” and “In America we don’t distribute wealth. We earn it!” One man even wore a handcrafted mask that resembled Obama while picketing with a sign that read “Yes I con.”

Norm Beznoska, the protestor behind the “Obamacare” signs and a Strongsville resident, said he doesn’t support the “Obamacare” because he believed it would strip about $500 million from Medicare. Benznoska said he is a senior citizen and a navy veteran, so the cuts would affect him.

Another protestor, Medina resident Amy Brighton, said she doesn’t want the government to control her health care, but she would rather have health care be a personal responsibility. Brighton said she supports the proposal to allow people to purchase insurance across state lines.

Obama used the story of Natoma Canfield, a Medina resident, to demonstrate the need for immediate reform. Canfield, who has been diagnosed with leukemia, is now paying medical expenses without insurance because the spikes in premiums in her insurance became too expensive.

“I want you to think about Natoma and the millions of people who are looking for some help, and looking for some relief,” Obama said. “That’s why we need health insurance reform right now.”

Her sister, Connie Anderson, spoke on Canfield’s behalf to introduce the president because Canfield was still being treated at Cleveland Clinic.

Obama said he is using the health care reform bill to stand up for people like Natoma being mistreated by insurance companies. The bill will ensure that insurance companies keep premiums down and prevent abuse from the insurance industry and denials of treatment. He added that the health care bill would not add to the deficit, but rather be the largest middle-class health care tax cut in history. Also, 31 million uninsured people will be covered if the bill gets passed.

Michelle Boasten of Akron said she identified with the story of Natoma. She is a self-employed nurse who gets her insurance through a private provider.

“In the mix of health care, the middle class is the new underdog,” she said.

Boasten said the wealthy have their insurance covered and the poor are on Medicaid, so it is the middle class who suffers when it comes to health care. After the speech, she shook Obama’s hand as he circulated through the crowd and handed him a letter explaining her suggestions for a different health care bill. She said her plan calls for people to forgo their Social Security checks and receive Medicare at the age of 40 instead of 65.

Wanda Navarro, a Hugo Boss factory worker, was among those cheering for Obama. The factory she works at in Brooklyn will close on April 27, and Navarro will not only lose her job, but also her insurance. She said she is for the health care reform because all of the people without jobs need insurance.

Obama’s persuasive nature convinced Strongsville resident Jay Alangar that the health care reform bill is the right step for America.

“I think he gave enough support that it should be passed in Congress,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected].