Pelosi holds town hall with faith leaders

August 20, 2009 7:32:34 PM PDT
A civilized meeting on health care reform was held in San Francisco on Thursday. The civilized demeanor hasn't always been the case around the country. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, told a small crowd that this is the opportunity of a century and there is no backing down.

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The speaker says the president is committed to a bi-partisan bill, but if that's not possible she says there will still be a bill. Those who gathered with her Thursday called on a higher power to persuade Congress.

"It's hard to change, but it hurts when it's your child or my child that can't go to the hospital and get some help," said Rev. Calvin Jones from the Providence Baptist Church.

You could say they're praying for health care reform. These ministers, rabbis and other clergy were brought together by the San Francisco Interfaith Council and the San Francisco Organizing Project.

"In my Jewish congregation, what we really want to say is public option, a public option," said Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller from the Congregation Sherith Israel.

The public option is the White House plan for government-run insurance designed to compete with private insurance companies. That idea has become the focus of the health care debate.

Thursday Speaker Pelosi indicated, contrary to some reports, there will be no retreat on that issue.

"Are you talking to me? Caving in to the right? Let me say it another way. There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

She was asked if the president is beginning to back pedal in the face of opposition.

"No he isn't. He isn't at all," said Speaker Pelosi.

But there are many who wish he would. Protesters gathered outside a town hall meeting in Chicago Thursday where Vice President Joe Biden and health and human services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius talked health care reform.

"Why do we need big brother? Why do we need someone in D.C. telling me in Chicago that I need this or that," said Chicago protester Ralph Sprovier.

"It's not clear it's going to solve any of our big problems," said Stanford senior fellow Alain Enthoven, Ph.D.

Enthoven is known as the father of managed competition. He says health care reform is urgently needed, but the White House plan is not the way to go.

"The trouble with the public option is, I think, it will look too much like Medicare. And more and more now people are coming to realize that fee-for-service is not the way to pay doctors. That pays for more things, more volume, than it does for quality, doesn't bring better outcomes," said Enthoven.

Speaker Pelosi says she has more than enough votes to pass a healthcare reform measure in the House. The battle is likely to be much tougher in the Senate, where conservative Democrats, as well as Republicans aren't on board with that controversial public option.

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