Advocates brave the cold for health care reform

By Lisa Owad and Lauren Sullivan
Jan. 26, 2010
Medill News Service

Supporters of health care reform gathered in downtown Chicago Tuesday to protest the potential scaling back of the health care bill.

MoveOn, a non-profit political action group, organized 160 rallies nationwide to encourage Congress to move forward with a comprehensive health care bill.

A shifting political landscape – due to Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown’s election to the Senate last Tuesday, which cost Democrats their 60-vote Senate supermajority – has left Obama and Democratic leaders scrambling to pass health care reform.

It is unclear how they will move forward, but Obama indicated last Wednesday that a paring of the bill might be necessary to pass any version of health reform.

But not everyone thinks that’s the right approach.

“You can’t piecemeal it,” said Jonathan VanderBrug, justice director for Chicago’s Campaign for Better Health Care—Illinois’ largest health care coalition. “We need full reform – comprehensive reform. A large group of people do not support the bill because it does not go far enough.”

Political analysts expect pieces of the House and Senate bills to be passed incrementally, requiring the support of Republicans who currently oppose the bill.

“It must go back to the drawing board,” said Cadey O’Leary, a member of the Chicago Young Republicans communications committee. “[The bill] must be more deliberate, more bipartisan and more transparent – whether it’s starting over or rendering portions of it.”

Reform advocates, though, are fearful that more compromise would mean the end of any significant overhaul.

“I think the Democrats have been wimps,” said Chris-Ellyn Johanson, who participated in the rally. “I am really disappointed in my party.”

Critics contend that the White House hasn’t done a good job of communicating elements of health care reform to the public – resulting in a drop in national support for reform. According to a Rasmussen report issued Friday, 58 percent of Americans currently oppose the plan before Congress.

“I’m worried that people have become apathetic because no big action has been taken,” Johanson said. “People who are for health reform have given up.”

Obama will reportedly focus on job creation and economic growth in Wednesday’s State of the Union address. Health reform advocates hope that health care is not moved to the back burner.

See this article at the Medill News Service

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