Health Care Warriors Take to the Battlefield

By Gorman Gorman

Jun 1, 2009 5:33pm

ABC News' David Chalian Reports: 
As Congress settles back into Washington for another work period and with the likelihood of a bloody battle of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor seeming remote, health care activists are preparing for their issue to move to the center ring of politics.A coalition of liberal and progressive groups announced today plans to spend "at least $82 million this year on working to support President Obama's plan and get a guarantee of quality affordable health care for all passed this year and in this Congress," according to Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now (HCAN).The group's campaign plan calls for spending most of those resources on grassroots organizing and paid advertising including television ads.  Mr. Kirsch boasts of having more than 140 organizers on the ground in 40 states at current count."With what can't compete inside with the armies of lobbyists, we can compete where it really matters — at the grassroots," said Kirsch.The coalition's initial efforts are focused on pressuring Congress to produce a health care reform bill that includes the availability of a public insurance plan that will compete with the various private plans in the market place.  Opponents of the public option claim it will be near impossible for private insurers to compete with a government plan driving many of those private insurers out of business. There was little discussion at the campaign launch today about how to pay for reforming the system.Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean once again said that a health care reform plan without a public option would be a waste of money and not the offer the kind of fundamental reform proponents believe is required.  "The idea that the public option is going to somehow wipe out private insurance is historically incorrect," Dean said.  "Will there be changes in the insurance market?  Yes, that's the purpose of having the public option.  Insurance companies will have to compete." Dean said in answering his own rhetorical question.  Dr. Dean also said he believes a sea change has occurred in American politics that allows for this moment to be the time when fundamental health care reform can occur."More people who are under the age of 35 years old cast a ballot in [the 2008 presidential race] than people who are over 65.  That has never happened in my lifetime," said Dean.  "We have seen a sea change in this country.  A complete change.  A generation which is center-left.  They happen to be conservative probably about money, but in terms of social values and social programs and the kind of agenda on the environment, and for health care, and for equal rights for every single American,  this is a center-left nation."The proponents for a public insurance option as part of health care reform will not have the battlefield to themselves, of course.Over the weekend, the Rick Scott funded "Conservatives for Patients' Rights" launched a 30-minute infomercial aimed at debunking the public option by highlighting stories of long waiting times patients experienced in the Canadian and British government sponsored systems."Anything that seems too good to be true like national health service truly is," Scott says in the infomercial.

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