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Seeking a clearer health care message

Michael Wolf questions U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., on health care reform during a town hall meeting at the Sheldon Heights Church of Christ in Chicago.

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: Today, President Barack Obama worked the phones to talk health care reform with a group of religious leaders. Tomorrow morning, he'll hit the airwaves on a talk radio show. The health-care debate has come a long way since the administration started selling a health care overhaul earlier this year. It went from a discussion about covering the nation's uninsured to a fight over cost, to screaming matches parading as town hall meetings. Now, some of the president's supporters are advising a return to basics. Tamara Keith reports.


TAMARA KEITH: With the debate over health care legislation getting more complicated by the day, many people are having a hard time remembering why we started talking about health care reform in the first place.

UWE REINHARDT: All of that is intellectual overload for the American public.

Uwe Reinhardt is a health economist at Princeton. He says President Obama would get more traction if he focused on how a health care overhaul is the right thing to do because it would help every day Americans.

REINHARDT: And the central moral issue, how fair is that that hard-working waitresses and cab drivers when they get sick go broke or don't get care. That was lost.

A broad swath of religious groups are pushing that message. President Obama is talking to them today on a conference call. Jim Wallis is executive director of Sojourners, a faith and justice network that's participating.

JIM WALLIS: In his campaign, the president did talk about the moral imperative of health care reform. So one of his principals is full coverage. We have to make sure that every American has access to quality health care. That's really a moral issue.

But can Americans who already have health insurance be convinced that it's in their interest to help foot the bill for those who don't? Reinhardt says there's a pocketbook argument, not just a moral one.

REINHARDT: You think you are insured. You are not. You could lose your job.

And with it your health insurance.

In Washington, I'm Tamara Keith for Marketplace.

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Religious leaders will support a government-backed health care plan...until the question of abortion and birth control gets raised.

Karl Rove must still be laughing about this lack of control of the message. Former militia followers, who flooded the Internet hate groups after an African American got elected, took this opportunity and ran with it. The birth certificate balony wasn't enough to sell the conspiracy that outsiders are taking over the US government, so they sell people on the idea the government is taking away rights and setting up death counsels.

To people who have seen their jobs go to Asia, new neighbors talking foriegn languages, homosexuals getting marriage rights, the whole idea that "their" way of life is going away without a fight, took hold. Sarah Palin doesn't even have to tell them to bring their guns to the town hall meetings, they did it themselves.

And what is the Democrat message to counter all this? They don't even know. Talk about having to catch up from behind. The real scandal BusinessWeek pointed out, won't even get discussed as people waste time on the conspiracy theories.

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