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Activist groups use Fourth of July to step up campaigning for health care reform — MedCity Morning Read, July 6, 2009

Across the country, activist groups stepped up their campaigning about health care reform while their congresspeople were home for the Fourth of July recess.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A handful of locals telling health insurance horror stories staged a small but heartfelt rally outside the home of Sen. Olympia Snowe’s district office over the July Fourth holiday, according to the New York Times.

Health care reform cannot wait another day,” Rev. Dorothy Matson, told the Times. Matson leads two Methodist churches and says the uninsured and underinsured in her remote area of Maine are turning to churches for help. “People are desperate now.”

Across the country, activist groups stepped up their campaigning about health care reform while their congresspeople were home for the Fourth of July recess, the Times said.

In Maine, Snowe and fellow senator Susan Collins are moderate Republicans who could support Democratic health reform plans. Efforts to sway their senate votes — and draw average citizens into the debate — were intense during the holiday weekend, according to the Times.

In Presque Isle, Matson and others recruited by the Service Employees International Union delivered dozens of handwritten letters to Snowe’s office. The union is campaiging for a “public option” plan — a government alternative to private health insurance. Snowe is the only Republican so far who backs a public plan, the Times said. She also serves on the Senate Finance Committe — one of two key Senate committees crafting health care.

In Portland and Augusta, Health Care for America Now, a coalition of liberal groups organized larger rallies protesting rate increases by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the largest health insurer in Maine, according to the Times.

But the bluest of blue Democratic states that propelled Barack Obama into the White House could pay the brunt of the hundreds of billions of dollars it would cost to reform the nation’s health care system, the Los Angeles Times said. People in states like Illinois, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York are wealthier and get generous health care benefits at work.

People in these states also are more likely to have health insurance, so they won’t benefit as much from the expanded coverage offered by a government-sponsored health plan, among other proposed changes, the L.A. Times said.

President Obama made a campaign promise not to raise taxes on the middle class, so he’s trying to steer congressional leaders away from this financing option. But Democrats are increasingly talking about taxing people for their health benefits to raise money to pay for reform, the L.A. Times said.

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