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Health Battle Heats Up as Debate Comes Home

Black Voice News, News Report , Chris Levister Posted: Aug 10, 2009

August will be anything but a recess for Washingtons health care warriors. Both parties are launching major political offenses this month, with Democrats promoting President Obamas vision of health care and Republicans warning of a government takeover of the system.

The great debate over health care insurance reform has moved from the corridors of Congress to the coffee shops, cafes, kitchens, nursing homes and community halls of America, where its fate may well be decided.

Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) who represents the forty-third Congressional District of California consisting of San Bernardino and the towns running westColton, Rialto, Fontana, Bloomington, and Ontario, will be home on holidayBut hell find no escape from the health care drama.

Instead, he and fellow lawmakers face four weeks of being button-holed and harangued by legions of lobbyists from health care interest groups (insurance firms, hospitals, physicians, drug companies), labor unions and grassroots groups like MoveOn.org, in addition to irate voters demanding more health coverage or worried about losing the coverage theyve got. Baca is convening a health care advisory committee consisting of doctors, labor union representatives, educators and seniors.

Its crunch time. After six months of haggling and horse trading in congressional committees and party caucuses, now its what Senate and House members hear back home that could determine the shape of any health reform proposalor even whether theres a proposal at all. Baca a member of the Blue Dogs, a group of about 50 fiscally conservative Democrats says hes concerned about the cost of the plan. But his office is being bombarded with calls from some of the 217,000 uninsured citizens in his district urging him to vote for the measure.

Baca the lone local proponent of the bill says the 50 or so protesters that showed up in front of his San Bernardino office recently wont deter his campaign for reform.

This is not about which side is winning the war of words. This is about the people. You have to listen to the home voices - tell people whats in it for them that gives them reason to support it.

Local lawmakers and grass roots organizations of every stripe have scheduled events to discuss health care during the August recess.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) says he wont support Mr. Obamas health care plan as written. He has scheduled a series of community forums to discuss the legislation. Also opposed, Rep Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs), Rep Ken Calvert (RCorona) and Rep. Darrell Issa (RVista) all have planned public forums to engage constitutes on the subject.

Baca will have some help in making his case. Before rank and file House Democrats bolted for summer break last week Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave them each a three-by-eight inch pocket card and told them never to leave home without it.

The two-sided blue and maroon glossy a personalize cheat sheet, is geared to help Democratic members tell their constitutes what theyll gain from health care reform.

The essence is really quite simple says Pelosi: regulation of insurers, so they cant cherrypick the healthy. All Americans want and need an affordable insurance plan. Everything else is about making that core work. Individual mandates are a way to prevent gaming of the system by people who dont sign up until they are sick; employer mandates seek to hold down the on-budget costs by preventing a rush by employers to drop premium holders; the public option offers a way to create effective competition and hold costs down further.

But what it means for the individual American will be that insurers cant reject you, and if your income is below the poverty threshold, the government will help you pay your premiums.

Republicans have their own summer recess strategy. With Americans growing wary of plans for health care reform, GOP leaders are taking their fight straight to Americas living rooms and public forums.

Republicans also have been given talking-point packages. But lacking the big-name firepower Democrats can command, the GOP is expected to rely heavily on television advertising and conservative bloggers and radio and TV commentators to carry its case.

With polls showing considerable confusion and shifting sentiment about reform, the air war that will rage on television and radio for the next four weeks will play a large role in shaping public perception of health insurance reform.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio says Mr. Obama and the Democrats have overreached health care and theyre likely to have a very, very hot summer.

At a workshop on health care reform in Colton Tuesday, proponents and protesters cheered, booed and jeered during the unfurling of a large banner calling for Hands Off Health Care.

Several Democratic lawmakers have accused Republicans of manufacturing the nationwide protest to disrupt healthy discourse. These protests are most likely a harbinger of things to come, Pennsylvanias Sen. Arlen Specter said a day after facing a rowdy crowd in Philadelphia.

August may be a rough but defining month. September is at stake.

Related Articles:

Thousands of California Elders Losing Long-Term Care

Over 30 Percent of Hispanics Lack Health Insurance

Dr. Joycelyn Elders: Americans Need to Be More Healthy

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