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Health Care Reform: Can We Work It Out in the Heat of August?

Health care is currently at the top of the agenda for President Obama and national legislators. With Congress on recess for the month of August, health care was expected to be a major topic as lawmakers returned to their districts to explain and amplify the reforms Obama is lobbying hard to get passed.

It seems that the media’s obsession with the racially-charged arrest of Henry Louis Gates and President Obama’s response to it has meant that health care coverage has gotten the short end of the stick. Given this lack of media coverage, it’s no surprise that many Americans are confused and in the dark on the work Congress has done to this point on health care reform. As an online search topic, health care ranked around No. 5 on the New York Times’ web site last week. On Yahoo, it wasn’t even among the Top 10 and on Google, it didn’t make the Top 30.

Obama’s key solutions on reforming the system include expanding coverage, improving quality, lowering costs, honoring patient choice and holding insurance companies accountable, according to Organizing for America, a supporter network.

However, the GOP’s staunch conservative wing is leading the way in rejecting any kind of health care reform. In one rowdy town hall meeting on health care in Little Rock, Ark., caught on video by Talking Points Memo, a woman told Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), the leader of the Blue Dog Democrats, "At this point in my life, I have never seen my America turned into what it has turned into, and I want my America back." At the same event, a man said he didn’t need reform because he pays for his health care in "cash."

But, the AARP, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and other proponents of reform are taking their messages to the public too, and offering citizens a chance to state their support or submit their stories about experiences with "the broken health care system."

An e-mail AARP sent out this week to its members encouraged them to fight back against "interest groups twisting the truth to stop health reform." The e-mail listed facts ("Medicare will not be ended") and myths ("Congress would mandate the rationing of care") about Congress’ work on reform.

Blogger Mcjoan on also offered some eye-opening facts about the influence game that plays out behind the scenes in Washington that could have an impact on whatever reform package that emerges. She wrote:

  • "During the first half of 2009, health industry groups contributed almost $1.8 million to 18 lawmakers overseeing the House side of the action on an overhaul bill.
  • For 15 of the 18 congressional leaders, health-care-related PACs accounted for the largest or second-largest contributions each lawmaker received from any industry during the first six months of 2009, a CQ MoneyLine analysis of campaign finance reports shows."

Other reform advocates, who are critical of Obama’s plan, want to see the government adopt a single-payer health care plan. According to last year’s Census Bureau, 46 million Americans are uninsured. What can be done to ensure health care coverage for all?

What do you think about the media coverage on health care reform? What can you say about your own congressional representative’s position on health care reform? Can health care truly be reformed? Why or why not? Who do you think most has your health care interests in mind, President Obama or your congressional representatives? Are you satisfied with the kind of health care you receive? Can you distinguish fact from fiction in the current debate on health care?

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