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Health Blame Game Builds

Insurers, GOP Under Attack

Senate Democrats on Wednesday continued to ramp up their weeklong campaign on health care reform, training their fire on the insurance industry and Republicans who they charge simply want to stop any overhaul from happening.

The Democratic offensive comes as the clock ticks toward the four-week August recess, and fresh polling shows public confidence waning for the party’s health care proposals. Hoping for a turnaround, the Democratic Conference held a two-hour session to prepare for how to sell its health care reform plans over the break.

“Republicans’ role in this is all about ‘slow down, stop and no.’ It’s easy to capture a public debate when you’re saying, ‘slow down, stop and no,’” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said during a news conference. “Republicans have, as always, thrown in with insurance companies’ interests to try to undermine what we’re doing.”

Brown serves on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which approved health care legislation on a party-line vote in mid-July. He was joined by Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), a senior member of the Finance Committee and chairman of the panel’s Subcommittee on Health Care.

Rockefeller said an investigation by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which he chairs, proves that insurance companies regularly “purge” individuals from their rolls after they get sick to preserve profits.

The West Virginia Democrat’s charge comes as the party appears to be shifting its broader message on health care. Democrats have begun using the phrase “health insurance reform” rather than “health care reform” when talking about overhauling the system.

The three Democrats argued that Republicans are in collusion with greedy insurance companies to try to stop health care reform in its tracks. The trio charged that the drop in public confidence in the Democratic health care agenda is the result of a manipulative misinformation campaign by the GOP.

“It is astonishing, frankly, that after all this time, after all this pain and anguish, Republicans are ramping up their attack machine to defend the status quo,” Whitehouse said. “The Republicans bring to this an effort to delay and derail the process, and to turn the most desperate domestic policy crisis in our country into political theater.”

A Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters released Wednesday showed a majority of voters now disapprove of Obama’s handling of health care, with 39 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving. The results show a 7-point drop in the president’s approval from a similar survey last month.

Likewise, a CNN poll, also publicized Wednesday, found that only 30 percent of Americans believe health care reform will help them and their families if health care reform proposals the president supports become law. Nearly half of those surveyed — 44 percent — said measures supported by Obama would help other families, but not their own.

Senate Republicans have argued that the Democratic health care agenda is sinking under its own weight, believing that the majority party’s attempt to blame them will fall flat.

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