Obama to speak Thursday at Portland Expo; tickets available Wednesday

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PORTLAND — President Obama will visit the city Thursday to speak about the new health-care reform law, the White House announced this week.

The White House Office of Media Affairs said the president will “speak directly to Mainers about how the historic health insurance reform bill he signed into law will end the worst practices of insurance companies, immediately begin to bring down costs for families and businesses, and expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured.”

The president signed the bill into law March 23, two days after it was approved by the House, and approved amendments to the original bill Tuesday.

Obama will speak at the Portland Exposition Building, 239 Park Ave. He previously appeared at the Expo as a senator in September 2007 during his presidential campaign.

Tickets for the event are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. They will be available beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 31, at the Expo lobby. Tickets will be limited to two per person.

The White House did not specify how many tickets would be available. The Expo seats about 4,500 people.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, announced on March 26 that Obama would visit the Portland area. But details were not made available until late Monday, March 29.

In an e-mail this week, Pingree said more than 2,500 people had signed up on her Web site to receive more information about the president’s visit. She encouraged people who want tickets to arrive early at the Expo on Wednesday.

“The health care reform the president just signed is historic and is going to have some big benefits to seniors, small businesses and working Maine families,” Pingree said. “I think people want to see him and hear him talk about this important reform first hand.”

Doors are scheduled to open at 1:30 p.m. Thursday and ticket holders must be in the Expo by 2:30 p.m. The president is scheduled to speak at 3:25 p.m.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net