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Obama hits the road for health care reform

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Health care debate

Obama hits the road for health care reform

President hopes to appeal to skeptical public, skittish lawmakers

The Associated Press: President Barack Obama will travel to Philadelphia today to "try to persuade the public to back his plan to remake the nation's health care system, while also urging uneasy lawmakers to cast a 'final vote' for a massive reform bill in an election year." Obama will then travel to St. Louis on Wednesday.

"Party leaders are narrowing in on a strategy that calls for House Democrats to go along with a health care bill the Senate passed in December. . . . But full Democratic support is far from certain. Some party moderates are uneasy about the cost of the $1 trillion bill and its language on abortion, and some House Democrats are suspicious of whether their Senate colleagues would follow through on promises to work out the differences in the bills."

Politico: Administration officials believe the president can be more successful in his health overhaul messaging outside Washington. "This more optimistic view — that Obama still can make the sale on health care — is being reinforced by Democratic focus groups, which suggest voters' opinions on health care remain fluid and that Americans are focusing less on details of the bill than on the broader issue of Washington's ability to get anything done."

Politico notes that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., claims "Americans had spent a year expressing a 'clear message' of opposition to Democrats' schemes . . . 'This is really not an argument between Democrats and Republicans. It's an argument between Democrats and the American people,' said McConnell, who has threatened to use heath care in every competitive race this fall."

Business Week/Bloomberg: "Just over half of Americans oppose the Democrats' plans to remake U.S. health care, compared with 41 percent who support them, according to an average of polls on the political Web site Real Clear Politics. Analysts at Wells Fargo Securities LLC put the odds of passage at 40 percent."

The Wall Street Journal: "[Some] House Democrats wavering over whether to back a health-care overhaul questioned whether it would effectively curb the country's health costs, highlighting a difficult issue that the White House and congressional leaders must address." That includes Reps. John Adler and Jason Altmire, both D-Pa.

"Messrs. Adler and Altmire opposed the original House bill, but are now being courted by House leaders scrounging for votes to pass a new compromise plan. Despite his reservations, Mr. Altmire said on Sunday that he was also worried about the cost consequences of doing nothing."

Roll Call reports on a few Democratic "fence-sitters" who are signaling that they may be willing to vote yes on a reform bill after voting no last fall, including Altmire, Adler and Rep. Brian Baird, of Washington state, who is not seeking re-election. Roll Call quotes Baird: "My personal struggle, quite frankly, is, could we not do this in a much more elegant, simple, direct, straight-forward way — I think we could. I doubt I am going to get a chance to do that. So the difficult choice for some of us is to say, 'This is not the bill I would write by a darn sight but it is certainly better than the status quo. What would we do if we don't have this option,' to start from scratch."

Former senators from Pennsylvania - Democrat Harris Wofford and Republican Rick Santorum, are comparing earlier efforts at health reform to today's, USA Today reports. "This time, Wofford says it's important for Democrats to pass comprehensive legislation. The White House is telling Democrats the same thing — that a policy failure would be the worst thing for them politically. 'I know what happens when you don't pass something,' Wofford says." He was defeated by Santorum in 1994 after the Clinton bill failed.

USA Today adds: "Santorum takes the opposite view — that the worst thing for Democrats would be to pass the bill. As a candidate in 1994, 'I got a lot of blank stares when I got into the weeds,' he says. ... Santorum recalls trying to keep the issue alive at the end of the 1994 race, because voters were wary of what he calls 'government-run health care' and 'more bureaucracy,' but its death in Congress blunted its impact."

The Hill: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has put the lid on two of the more contentious issues that last week were threatening to divert critical attention away from healthcare's home stretch. ... And the timing couldn't be more crucial. The White House has laid down an end-of-the-month marker for completing healthcare, and House Democrats are by all accounts short — by anywhere from a few to perhaps more than a dozen — of the votes needed to pass the Senate bill and a second package of 'fixes' that the Senate and White House will agree to."

Kaiser Health News tracked coverage of a Gallup poll released Friday that asked Americans whom they trusted to reform the health system as well as the weekend's news coverage, focusing on Sunday's talk show skirmishes and the ongoing battle between Republicans and Democrats on health reform legislation.

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.

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