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Tell Senators: Now's Not the Time for a Break on Health Care Reform

Making sure senators keep hammering out health care reform is AlterNet's top Take Action Campaign for the week.

As "Blue Dog" recalcitrance and GOP "kill!" rhetoric continue to stall much-needed health care reform, it's important for Americans to understand what's really at stake.

President Barack Obama's plan is not, as naysayers tend to argue, an attempt to undermine the fundamental tenets of capitalism. Rather, the public option simply represents a commitment to placing human well-being above rabid marketeering. For too long, our nation's health care system has based its profit model on denying, rather than providing, adequate care.

Nowhere is this clearer than in a report filed on July 27 by a cluster of industry lobbying groups. The report shows that organizations like the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Pfizer and Glaxosmithkline spent $127 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2009. PhRMA and Pfizer together spent close to $25 million.

Add to the equation a recent NPR broadcast that highlighted the industry's propensity to rescind coverage for absurd reasons (one woman lost her insurance because she had been treated for acne; another man lost his because his weight had been incorrectly entered on a form), and it's not hard to spot the troubling trend: Our health care system functions best when it keeps people excluded and sick.

Though it would be easy to fault kamikaze thinkers like pundit Bill Kristol and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., for the lagging pace of reform, much of the blame also rests on Democrats who continue to pander to special interests.

In the 2008 election cycle, Democrats received 90.7 million, or 54 percent, of the health care lobby's total contributions. And since January 2009, Democrats have collected 60 percent of all contributions from the industry -- a hefty $5.4 million.

Now, as the August recess approaches, and Democrats say no meaningful reform will happen until the fall, they seem to forget that 47 million Americans don't feel like waiting for them. The fact that an estimated 22,000 people will die before 2010 because of insufficient health care has seemingly slipped their minds.

Meanwhile, Kristol's "go for the kill" comment seems more prescient than pessimistic. If Democrats don't get their act together and push meaningful legislation through, the whole initiative could fall to pieces. Tell your senators that now is not the time to take a break. Let them know you, along with 72 percent of Americans, stand behind a public option.

Here’s the rest of our Take Action Campaigns this week:

II -- Push Obama for Stronger Climate Legislation

The passage of the Waxman-Markey bill by the House of Representatives in late June was an important first step in progressive climate legislation. But it was only the beginning of some very important movements on the part of the Obama administration.

Now is Obama's chance to really get tough on climate change. If we combine a strong limit, or "cap" on carbon emissions with energy and transportation policies, we could save money on energy costs while eliminating global warming. Join the thousands who have told Obama he must follow through on what he started.

III -- End the Outrageous HIV Travel Ban

This year, significant steps have been taken to end the discriminatory HIV travel ban, a law that bars HIV-positive individuals from entering the United States. "We're trying to end the stigma and the discriminatory practice for a disease that doesn't warrant exclusion for coming into this country," Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told MSNBC on July 20.

The Department of Health and Human Services has put the ban up for public comment. Now it's up to us to let the administration know just how important its dissolution is.