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The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has some mixed news for President Obama on health care. On the one hand, people would solidly support his proposals if they were properly explained -- but he's currently held back by misinformation.

"From what you have heard about Barack Obama's health care plan, do you think his plan is a good idea or a bad idea?" the poll asked. Only 36% of Americans said they believed Obama's health care plan is a good idea, while 42% believe its a bad idea.

Respondents were then given this description of certain points of the plan, in terms of regulations and taxes:

The plan requires that health insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. It also requires all but the smallest employers to provide health coverage for their employees, or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured. Families and individuals with lower-and middle-incomes would receive tax credits to help them afford insurance coverage. Some of the funding for this plan would come from raising taxes on wealthier Americans.


After the description was read, the numbers shifted to 53% in favor, to only 43% against. Granted, this description didn't go into such points as a public option or co-ops -- maybe because this description only went into the parts that Democrats themselves have in some kind of order right now -- but it does show the general trend here that more information equals more support.

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In an op-ed today, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) said lawmakers should be forced to enroll in a government-run public plan.

"Congress has the bad habit of exempting itself from the problems it inflicts on the American people," he wrote. "Lawmakers always seem to place themselves just out of reach of the laws they create."

Vitter, who is opposed to the Democrats' reform plans, introduced a resolution earlier this month to strip Congress of access to the federal employees' health care plan and requiring them to join the public plan.

The Senate HELP Committee bill, as written now, would force members of Congress into the public plan.

Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) introduced a similar resolution in the House in July.

In a huddle with progressives at Netroots Nation, Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY)--an outspoken Democrat from a conservative, upstate district--says Sen. Chuck Grassley's comments about end-of-life care constitute "an act of treason."



Grassley told a crowd of health care reform skeptics they were right to be concerned that, under Democratic health care legislation, the government would "pull the plug on grandma." Dishonest? Yes. But treason?

Now, on the one hand, Massa is a former military officer, and so should know perfectly well what is treason and what isn't. But he's also a former Republican, and apparently hasn't yet lost the "when in doubt, accuse of treason" reflex.

As a Democrat--and serving in a Republican-leaning district--Massa has eclectic views. He broke with the GOP over the Iraq war and plans to vote for single payer health care. But he opposes the health care plans the administration supports on cost grounds, and supported closing the southern border after the swine flu outbreak was traced to Mexico.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the administration is "absolutely not" giving up on efforts to come up with a bipartisan health care reform bill.

Gibbs took questions this morning about chief of staff Rahm Emanuel's comments that Republicans are bent on defeating reform efforts.

"Our goal is to get this done in a bipartisan way," Gibbs said. "There are several more weeks to go in potential negotiations between Republicans and Democrats. I don't know why we would short circuit any of that now."

He added that President Obama would do whatever it takes to get a bipartisan bill.

"He would get in a rocket and fly to the moon if that's what it would take to get everyone together," he said.

As an addendum to this post, take a look at UnitedHealth Group's health care reform website. It sends a purely positive message, complete with a Polaroid image of a happy, healthy family urging people to "tell congress to unite for health reform"

The letter the company sent to employees, calling on them to get involved in the health care debate is likewise headlined with the message "United for Health Reform."

And yet, as I reported, the company doesn't just advise employees to attend town hall forums. It arms them with talking points for those forums, and even directs them to anti-health care reform tea parties.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) sent a letter to the heads of major health insurance companies requesting detailed information about their executive pay, retreats, profits and other practices.

The letter, which is not a subpoena but a request, does not mention health care reform. But Waxman, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is leading the Democrats in reform negotiations. Stupak, also on the committee, voted against the bill over concerns about abortion funding.

Read the letter here.

The Congressmen are asking for highly detailed information, including the pay for all employees making $500,000 or more, including salary, bonuses, stocks and other compensation, plus the pay for all board members and the companies' policies for determining executive pay, all going back to 2003. They ask for a list of company retreats since Jan. 1, 2007, and documents showing who was there and what expenses they covered.

They're also asking for detailed information on the companies' finances when it comes to health insurance, including revenues, profits and the like.

Waxman and Stupak have given the companies a deadline of Sept. 14 to provide the information.

Two separate polls this morning confirm that Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) has a huge lead over his right-wing challenger in the 2010 primary for Senate, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

From Quinnipiac: Crist 55%, Rubio 26%.

And Rasmussen: Crist 53%, Rubio 31%.

Rubio has hoped to capitalize on Crist's support for the stimulus, in order to mobilize conservatives against the moderate governor. So far, it doesn't seem to be working, with Crist backed by the full party establishment and remaining way ahead in surveys.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is one of the latest members of Congress to have a run in with anti-health care reform protesters.



The encounter in the video took place last week after Baucus spoke at a preventive care conference in Bozeman, Montana. According to the New York Times, Baucus described the protesters as "agitators, whose sole goal was to intimidate, disrupt and not let any meaningful conversation go on."

There were a couple of people in the crowd "with YouTubes," Mr. Baucus added (meaning cameras), and he posited that the agitators were paid and probably from out of state.


No confirmation on whether any of the protesters came from out of state--though other anti-health care reform protesters haven't been shy about the fact that they don't just target their own representatives. And sure enough, one of the people with Youtubes put his footage on the Internets, and it's now accessible to everyone via the Google.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) had an amazing moment at a town hall meeting, confronting a woman with an Obama-as-Hitler sign, and who asked Frank why he supported Obama's "Nazi policy" on health care:



Frank, who is a member of at least two groups that the Nazis sent to the death camps -- he is Jewish and gay -- fired back. "On what planet do you spent most of your time?" he asked.

"You stand there with a picture of the President, defaced to look like Hitler, and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis. My answer to you is, as I said before, it is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated."

At least one major insurer is urging its employees to participate in tea parties.

Last week, UnitedHealth Group--the second largest health insurance company in the country--sent out a letter to its employees urging them to call UHG's United for Health Reform Advocacy Hotline to speak with an advocacy specialist about health care reform. The advocacy specialist, according to the letter, is there to help UHG employees write personalized messages to elected officials, and to arm them with talking points to use at local events in order to better oppose the public health insurance option.

TPM has obtained the letter, which you can read here, but a UHG advocacy specialist was not willing to provide TPM with a copy.

However, a source who's insured by UHG--and who also obtained the letter--called the hotline on Tuesday and says the company directed him to an events list hosted by the right wing America's Independent Party, and suggested he attend an anti-health care reform tea party sponsored by religious fundamentalist Dave Daubenmire, scheduled for today outside the office of Blue Dog Rep. Zack Space (D-OH).

UHG was not immediately available for comment.

Some conservatives have used the fact that industry groups nominally support health care reform to attack liberals and Democrats for blaming town hall disruptions and other public displays of opposition to health care reform on those same groups. Well, as you can see, it's perfectly possible for industry to have it both ways.

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