Health Care Battle Moves To Home Districts

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Congress begins its summer break this week without a deal on overhauling health care. The fight moves from Washington to local communities. Those for and against changes to health care have set up shop across the country. One of those places is Texas, which leads the nation in the number of people who don't have health care.


Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Linda Wertheimer.


And Im Steve Inskeep. Congress is going on a summer break, which is not likely to be much of a vacation. Theyll be in a debate over health care. Elsewhere on this mornings program, weve heard some voices aimed at wavering lawmakers. They include Republicans, Democrats, interest groups that buy ads and the president himself. They will also hear from constituents, as Bill Zeeble reports from KERA in Dallas.

BILL ZEEBLE: About a hundred people demonstrated recently outside Republican Senator John Cornyn's Dallas office. It was part of a national effort organized by opponents of President Obama. Activist Alan Amiss bashed the Democratic plan for a federal insurance option and says he's fed up with big government spending.

Mr. ALAN AMISS (Activist): There's nothing wrong with our health care as it is, so I don't see why we need to nationalize our health care. I don't see why we need to ram it down the people's throats. They need to take a break. I would like for all the politicians just to stop.

ZEEBLE: Amiss has health insurance. But Texas leads the nation with the number of those who don't.

Unidentified Woman: Well have you marked down. I appreciate you so much, and hopefully well see you on Saturday.

ZEEBLE: At Dallas's Democratic headquarters, phone volunteers are seeking support for a health plan that promises to insure more, if not all Americans, a plan many Congressional Democrats support.

Mr. HOBIE HUKILL (Volunteer, Organizing for America): Hello, is this Rhonda? Hi, Rhonda. My names Hobie Hukill. I'm a volunteer for Organizing for America.

ZEEBLE: Hobie Hukill is one volunteer making the calls. He and others in the room worked hard for Obama last year, and now want to see health reform become a reality. Mary Warren is here for personal reasons. Her son was between jobs and bought private insurance. But because his wife was pregnant, Warren says the insurance company said they would not insure anyone in the household, so the company dropped them.

Ms. MARY WARREN (Volunteer, Organizing for America): Once the baby was born, they would have to, by law, cover the baby. So they would not give them health insurance until the day the baby was born. And then they covered the baby in the hospital, but they didn't cover the mother in the hospital. So that was really shocking.

ZEEBLE: The group operating the phone bank, Organizing for America, used to be Obama for America during the presidential campaign. Now it's part of the Democratic National Committee. The DNC says this is the first big national policy effort since Obama took office. Eight organizers have been sent to Texas alone.

The Republican National Committee is also taking a grassroots campaign nationwide. Its spreading a million dollars around the country to oppose the Democrats. Both parties expect this grassroots push will make a difference. Southern Methodist University Political Science Professor Cal Jillson says organization will be key.

Professor CAL JILLSON (Political Science, Southern Methodist University): What we'll see over the next month is how well organized they are, how many people they can get out to town meetings to talk to the Congressmen one way other the other on this matter.

ZEEBLE: Jillson says Obamas supporters have been here before. Their network of several million helped elect him. But he says shell-shocked Republicans are also geared up for their first big fight against the Obama administration.

For NPR News, Im Bill Zeeble in Dallas.

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