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Emotions still run high in health care reform debate

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Health care

Emotions still run high in health care reform debate

As lawmakers prepare to return to Washington to take up health care reform, supporters on both sides of the issue continue the vigorous debate.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords can expect some fireworks as she has announced three Arizona town halls on the subject, one each in Sierra Vista, Green Valley and Tucson.

"We're stirred up, and the Republicans are stirred up, and the whole country is stirred up," Bob Bland, chairman of the Cochise County Democratic Committee, told the San Pedro Valley News-Sun.

Emotions have been running high for weeks.

U.S. Sen John McCain had to deal with some upset audience members at his recent town hall in Phoenix.

According to the Examiner, "before he even started, he had to ask security to physically escort one angry woman from the meeting.

The woman simply refused to stop screaming at him. There was applause when she was escorted out and Sen McCain simply said, 'Bye, see ya.' "

NPR has had two recent stories. In the first, NPR notes: Conservative political activists associated with the so-called 'Tea Party' protests have started a cross-country bus convoy dubbed the Tea Party Express. They plan to stop in 33 cities. Tea Party Express organizer Mark Williams, also a conservative talk show host, said there is a lot of dissatisfaction in the country right now focused on issues from health care reform to the national debt.

'We figured it's about time for somebody to run to the front of the parade and say, 'Follow me,' and to try and herd all these cats into a semi-coherent message,' Williams said. The Tea Party Express is scheduled to conclude Sept. 12 with a rally in Washington, D.C." (8/30).

NPR's second story: At high noon on one of the hottest days of the summer, a small group of senior citizens sweated it out in front of state GOP headquarters in Raleigh, N.C., asking the Republican Party to stop using what they called "scare tactics" to turn senior citizens against health care reform. It could be the start of a silver backlash against what some say is a misinformation campaign about health care reform."

The members of the Alliance for Retired Americans were angry about a recent column by national GOP chair Michael Steele, who said health care reform would lead to rationing for the elderly and deep cuts to Medicare. Protestor Michael Gravinese says that's not true — and he thinks Steele is trying to frighten seniors like him" (Leslie, 8/30).

Politico: "Republican challengers across the country have found a new way of capitalizing on the roiling emotions surrounding congressional health care town hall meetings. Driven by intense voter interest in the topic, the almost-certain promise of media coverage and the opportunity to upstage incumbent Democrats, GOP candidates in state after state are holding their own health care town halls — and reveling in the subsequent publicity bonanza. ... Florida Republican Allen West, who is running against Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), said his Deerfield Beach town hall meeting earlier this month drew several hundred local residents, many of whom stayed long after the 90-minute session ended to chat with him. Just as important, the event was the subject of extensive media coverage and was streamed live on a local news website (Falcone, 8/30).

Las Vegas Review-Journal: "A town hall meeting without tea bag tossing and rifle-toting protesters makes for a sedate event, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., proved Friday. Reid hosted a teleconference, or tele-town hall, with an estimated 10,000 Nevadans to discuss health reform, without having to worry about talking over protesters who have disrupted live town hall events around the country."

"It was an opportunity for Reid to reiterate his support for the so-called 'public option' version of reform and share some sobering statistics about health care in Nevada and around the country. The call lasted an hour and Reid, speaking from Reno, interacted with about 17 people during the event" (Spillman, 8/29).

CBS News: "About a thousand people rallied in Manhattan on Saturday in support of federal health care reform legislation. The event near Times Square began shortly after the funeral for U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, and took-on the feel of a tribute to the liberal leader. One person carried a sign that said, 'TeddyCare for all.' U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney told the crowd the bill will lower health care costs for almost everyone. The New York Democrat also invoked Kennedy, saying the senator understood the need for change" (8/29).

The New York Times features a slide show of the rally in Times Square.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent news service. It is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-care-policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Town hall meetings

Sierra Vista: 6-8 p.m., Aug. 31, Buena High School Performing Arts Center; 459-3115,

Green Valley: 9-11 a.m., Sept. 1, West Social Center, 1111 Via Arcoiris; 881-3588,

Tucson: 6-8 p.m., Sept. 1, Saguaro High School, 545 N. Camino Seco; 881-3588,

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giffords, health care, john mccain

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