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Did "we the people" write the health care bill?

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, January 4 2010

"Where the Road to Health Reform Began" is the banner headline on a White House blog post added to the official blog of the Executive Office of the President of the United States almost perfectly a year to the day after Americans were asked by their new president, Barack Obama, to gather around their hearths, kitchen tables, and folding rec center tables to hash over their vision for overhauling the American health care system to better meet their needs, and their neighbors needs.

Was it all for naught? No way, says the White House. The health care package emerging from all of Capitol Hill's legislative wrangling contains solutions to the very problems with health care that those 9,000 willing volunteers identified. Frustrated will the trouble you have carrying health insurance coverage from one job to the next, as a participant in 2008's Health Care Community Discussions from Wallingford, Connecticut was? Good for you that the Affordable Health Care for America Act, blogs the White House Office of Health Reform's Jen Cannistra, "will ensure that Americans always have guaranteed choices of quality, affordable health insurance whether you lose your job, switch jobs, move, or get sick."

"[A]s we move into the final stretch of this road towards the historic passage of health insurance reform," Cannistra writes, "we wanted to take a look at how the legislation we’ve seen emerge from Congress addresses many of the concerns, questions, suggestions, and solutions we heard about a year ago." You can read the post for yourself here.

Of course, there's a little bit of bait and switch at play. Did average, eager Americans have much to say about what was in the final Senate health care package? Cannistra isn't exactly saying so, but it's certainly the fuzzy feeling the Obama Administration would like to leave us with. Drawing a direct line of cause and effect between the grassroots organizing efforts of the Obama presidency's early days and the contortions of the legislative process is something the Obama Administration needs to do if it is going to win the war of public opinion over whether it is a networked presidency of the Internet age. Provisions like portability, though, aren't exactly brand new ideas in the health reform debate, or the sort of pragmatic thinking that only the populace is capable of. The health care legislation the Obama Administration pushed was responsive to and reflective of public desires. But that, of course, is what politicians do. The good ones, at least. Posts like this help Obama make the case that he is a good politicians. The more open question is whether they make him any different than the good politicians who came before him.

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