Experts say health care reform may become a broken promise

This story was reported for the San Diego News Network on February 24, 2010.

See original copy of story.

Thursday’s meeting between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders may just be another addition to daytime television rather than a boost to health care reform legislation.

With Obama’s health care reform package seeing major alterations in the past year and the 59 Democratic members of Congress falling one vote short of stopping a GOP filibuster, legislation to revamp the controversial system in a liberal manner may just be a broken promise.

Why? Two political consultants offer two different reasons.

Democratic political consultant Chris Crotty said Obama’s political party created the mess itself when trying to appease Congressional “centrists.”

Republican political consultant Matt Klink said it’s simply clear that Obama’s health care reform package, no matter the number of changes it’s gone through, isn’t wanted in the U.S.

It has been almost a year since Obama first introduced his first health care reform plan. After 2,000 pages of proposed legislation filtering through Congress and questionable hope as to the fate of the plan, Obama offered another plan Monday, only 11 pages in length.

Thursday’s meeting may result in even more changes to Obama’s plan.

Crotty — a political consultant to various Democratic politicians who also worked on Obama’s presidential campaign – said Democrats could’ve predicted the problem.

“It’s really unfortunate because the Democrats have done this to themselves,” he said.

Crotty said the foundation of today’s predicament is the result of the 2006 congressional elections when the House saw a win of 30 Democratic seats. He said when former Rep. Rahm Emanuel “combed” the country in search of candidates who could win congressional seats and labeled themselves as “Democrats” when they weren’t and still aren’t. At the time, such a move was easy, said Crotty, “because they didn’t want to be tied at the hip with George W. Bush who had a 29 percent approval rating.”

The result of the election of “centrist Democrats” rather than “actual Democrats,” said Crotty, is why 39 House Democrats rejected Obama’s health care reform agenda in November.

Additionally, Democrats don’t want to present their package to Congress and risk the chance of a Republican filibuster because they’ll “look silly.”

Crotty said Democrats will attempt to pass any “type of health care reform” and label it as such to keep party momentum high without appearing to the general public that they have failed.

“One of the reasons Republicans can oppose health care reform without proposing an alternative is because they know the disarray in the Democrats,” Crotty said. “They know the Democrats will look silly and that Democrats are more afraid of looking stupid than they are about passing health care reform.”

But Matt Klink, a Republican political consultant, said the current failure of health care reform is simple: the plan itself is flawed .

“The attempt for a compromise is impossible,” Klink said. “Right now, this is a concern for Democrats and they need to pass some type of health care reform because they made such a big deal about it.”

Klink said although he is unsure when a plan will pass, when it does, it will be “a smaller package and not everyone will be satisfied.”

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) said the reason why Republicans are rejecting the Democratic proposal is because it doesn’t focus on reducing costs of current health care programs before expanding health care coverage. Additionally, he said if Tort reform or a revamp of legal remedies, were included in Obama’s proposal, it would appeal more to Republicans.

“We still haven’t included Tort reform, the President talks about it but there is no inclusion of true Tort reform in his bill,” Bilbray said.

The compromises between Republicans and Democrats are still unknown but Bilbray made it clear that one thing is missing from the health care equation, “the American People.”

“We need to ask what the American people will agree with,” he said. “That is a component that is missing in the formula.”

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network.

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Eight great local charities worth your time this holiday season

This story was reported for San Diego News Network on December 11, 2009.

See original copy of story.

When I was eight, my mother took me to a jewelry store and let me choose out a charm. I chose an 18-karat heart with the Goddess of Compassion in the middle. The Goddess of Compassion was an emblem I was familiar having grown up in a home with Buddhist parents and a mother who is the very definition of the word kind. The charm – which I still wear – and my mother’s presence remind me compassion is one of the most important gifts each person can offer another human being.

We may be in a recession with no end in sight, but let’s take a tip from my sweet, Chinese mommy: there are a number of charities around town that don’t just solely need cash. Rather, some need compassionate people and helping hands. With budget cuts hitting state and local agencies hard, giving back is so hot right now — it’s hotter than new Padres GM Jed Hoyer.

Here are just eight great San Diego charities to consider helping this holiday season. I know there are hundreds more local nonprofits seeking assistance. Throw a little compassion into our comments section by telling us what they are with links to more information.

EMBRACE: Help the homeless this holiday season with the San Diego nonprofit EMBRACE.

EMBRACE was created by Sean Sheppard after he spent years walking the streets of San Diego passing out food. He wanted to get college students and young locals involved too. Most recently, Sheppard and other community leaders hosted “EMBRACE the Streets,” where volunteers passed out clothes, food and blankets to homeless people in the East Village.

The organization can always use volunteers at its weekly dinners. Twice a week, EMBRACE hosts nearly 200 people for full meals. Sheppard hopes one day EMBRACE will be able to provide dinners to more San Diegans every single day.

With more than 4,000 San Diegans on the streets and more people losing their jobs every day, it just may be the perfect time to EMBRACE the homeless.

San Diego Youth Services: Since 1970, San Diego Youth Services has “stabilized the lives of over 500,000 homeless, abused and at-risk youth” in the region. Now, it provides services to more than 9,000 young people and their families via 15 locations throughout the county.

From adoption services to foster care to independent living, SDYS lives up to its mission “building futures for at-risk youth.” The organization happily welcomes volunteers to assist with adoption services, mentor children, work at teen centers or help teach independent living skills.

If you have the time this holiday season, share good will with young San Diegans who need it.

Stepping Stone of San Diego: Go the extra mile this season by volunteering with Stepping Stone of San Diego.

Stepping Stone of San Diego is an agency that focuses on alcohol and drug recovery in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Since 1976, the organization has developed nine programs catered to those looking to revitalize themselves. Its programs include residential facilities, outpatient treatment services, sober living assistance and harm reduction, among others.

At the moment, Stepping Stone of San Diego has several volunteer positions available to meet the organization’s needs. Check out its Web site to find out how you can make a difference in the life of someone who wants to change.

Local schools: Join your neighborhood public school as a volunteer to help combat California’s unprecedented budget crisis.

California schools have seen a major cut this budget cycle because of the state’s financial crisis and it’s only expected to get worst. This year alone, the state government cut $6 billion to 10,000 public schools and the San Diego Unified School District is facing a deficit of about $100 million. This means older teachers are being forced into retirement and others are forced into furloughs.

But volunteers are welcomed. At the moment, SDUSD has about 28,000 volunteers but when the next budget cycle hits, it’ll certainly need more. Volunteers either tutor students, offer classroom assistance to teachers or organize clubs, among other tasks.

All schools have a site volunteer – all you have to do is drop by and let them know you’re there to help.

Senior Community Centers: Did you know the average monthly income for a senior citizen in San Diego is $800? That’s a major concern, considering people who meet federal poverty level guidelines make about $2,000 each month.

Senior Community Centers in San Diego is working to help the senior citizens struggling to get through the day.

SCC offers several services to the county’s elderly, including nutrition and health education programs, physical and mental health care services and activities and socialization opportunities. But the organization does more than that. It also works to ease “the isolation” the seniors live in.

Take some time off from your holiday shopping this year to serve meals, organize a social activity or participate in the adopt-a-senior program. Check out the organization, for more info.

San Diego Humane Society: SDNN Health Editor Jennifer Reed reported on some distressing news Monday – neglected animals throughout our region are lacking health care.

But that’s not all — the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition took in 48,872 pets last fiscal year with about 3,273 at the San Diego Humane Society.

Show some affection to our furry friends by volunteering for the Humane Society, which provides more than 15 programs. After just one four-hour training per month, you work with spunky dogs in the canine programs or educate San Diegans about the sweet animals at our local schools, or even find a new friend by providing a temporary home to an abandoned animal.

Learn more on the Humane Society’s Web site.

Invisible Children: Thousands of miles away, the longest war in Africa’s history is being played out, leaving thousands of children homeless, or forced to fight.

Their story doesn’t end there, though. A team of San Diegans formed Invisible Children, a project that encourages the utilization of new media to educate the world on the war in an effort to the end the war.

The organization offers several ways for San Diegans to make monetary donations but it also offers tips on what you can do, without cash, to end violence in our world and ensure children are no longer invisible.

There are simple things like showing the organization’s documentaries in your home or telling the stories to friends and family or even writing a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to take a stand and call for an end to the violence.

More ideas are available on Invisible Children’s Web site.

AJA Project: San Diego is one of 15 resettlement cities in the nation for refugees, bringing in thousands of refugees. From 1980 to 2004 alone, 33,976 refugees settled in California.

Numerous organizations throughout the county are doing their part by helping our new residents settle into America’s Finest City. But one project, the AJA Project, is focusing on our city’s young refugees.

AJA, which is an acronym for “supporting self-sufficiency,” in Spanish, “autosuficiencia juntada con apoyo,” has three programs focused on kids. The programs offer multimedia and vocational education guidance to the children and allow them to utilize creativity.

AJA has several volunteer opportunities available from creative designer work to grant administration work. Check the group out while extending welcomes to our new residents.

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network and it took a lot of energy for her not to mention Rolling Readers USA, a non-profit literacy organization she serves as a board member for. OK, that didn’t work.

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Shortage of health care workers a growing concern

This story was reported for San Diego News Network on December 9, 2009.

See original copy of story.

The public option, Medicare and insurance for undocumented residents are just some issues related to health care being debated in the U.S. Senate at the moment. But some Americans have other concerns surrounding health care legislation — like the depleted amount of workers in the industry. Does the U.S. have enough doctors and health care professionals as more Baby Boomer-doctors retire?

Though the U.S. could still be months away from revamping the nation’s health care system, other issues that haven’t been fully addressed in both the Senate and House concern the industry itself, health care workers say.

“The problem does exist in some areas – we’re not producing enough workers for the health care industry,” said Tracy Garmer, Council of Community Clinics’ director of human resources. “And based on statistics the problem could be worse with the rise in the number of patients if health care reform does go through.”

The stats

The latest statistics offered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, show there were 27 active physicians for every 10,000 Americans in 2006. In California, there were 25.7 physicians for every 10,000 residents. Physicians in direct patient care, however, are at 25.3 per 10,000 Americans and 24.1 per 10,000 Californians. (See Chart)

A Merritt Hawkins & Associates (a healthcare consulting firm) survey of waiting times to obtain an appointment with a physician shows some signs of optimism. The survey which was conducted from September 2008 to March 2009 and in 15 cities (including San Diego) showed the average wait time for an appointment with a cardiologist was 15.5 days. This is a drop compared to 18.8 days in 2004. Other statistics show the average wait time for a dermatologist was 22.1 days; for an obstetrician or gynecologist – 27.5 days; for an orthopedic surgeon – 16.8 days; and for a family practice physician – 20.3 days.

Moreover, in 2006, there were about 14 million jobs in the health industry, the nation’s largest. The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that health care will grow by 3 million new workers from 2006 to 2016.

Although the number of physicians has risen steadily with the population (See Chart), growth may not be fast enough if 30 million more Americans gain health care coverage under proposed health reform bills.

‘The problem does exist’

The number of physicians per American or per Californian isn’t a shocker for Sharp Healthcare’s Joyce Stewart.

“The problem does exist,” said Stewart, director of human resources for the San Diego healthcare provider. “A recent report showed the California population is expected to grow by 10.2 million people in the next 20 years and in 2030, more than one million Californians will be 65 and older. California has does an excellent job in increasing the number of registered nurses in the state but there are still not enough.”

A report by Merritt Hawkins and conducted between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009 showed a 23 percent increase in requests for primary care doctors.

“Virtually every hospital or large medical group in the United States would be happy to add a family physician or general internist,” said Merritt Hawkins’ president Mark Smith. “There simply are not enough primary care doctors to go around.”

Other statistics show that one out of three “practicing physicians in the United States is over the age of 55” and “U.S. medical schools have not provided for the loss of 33 percent of the nation’s physician work force,” according to Health Leaders Media.

HLM also noted, “The first of the boomers turn 65 in 2010, and the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the nation’s population over the age of 62 will increase from about 46 million now to about 83 million by 2030. Of that population, 14 million will have diabetes and 21 million will be obese. By 2020, the American Hospital Association estimates that boomers will account for four in 10 office visits to physicians, if they can find them.”

Despite these stats, San Diego State University public health professor Rob Seidman said it’s important to note that the problem varies from type-to-type of physician.

“I think it [the problem] depends on the different types of health care professionals,” Seidman said. “We’d also have to consider supply and demand. There hasn’t been a dramatic increase in the supply [of health care workers] but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be adequate to meet the demand. I would say there are probably more needed, particularly for those who deal with technology.”

But if Obama’s wish to expand coverage to as many Americans as possible comes true the shortage of health care workers could become an even larger issue.

“A lot of political types are concerned that the demand of services could change significantly depending on what type of health care reform actually is,” Seidman said.

He’s right. Solana Beach Councilmember Dave Roberts and former candidate for Congress told SDNN previously he was concerned about health care delivery.

“I’m really concerned that we are not producing enough doctors or nurses,” Roberts said. “We don’t have enough facilities to take care of people. Our population is aging, we need to have a more intense focus on home health care so that people can stay in their homes and get the health care they need. So there is still a lot more that needs to be done after the health care bills are passed.”

But Seidman said it’s too soon to tell what the size of the problem is, considering the Senate is still debating legislation.

“There will be a shortage and there will be rationing, etc. But it’s different to predict particularly when we don’t know what the components of health care reform are,” he said.

So why does the problem exist? According to the community clinics’ Garmer, there’s a shortage of professors or trainers in the industry.

“The programs are impacted and the schools can’t take more than a certain amount,” she said. “It’s not that people do not want to enter the industry.”

Taking on the problem

The federal government has already attempted to tackle the problem.

Federal statistics show that more than 200,000 jobs could be created via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in the next year. Moreover, nearly $220 million in stimulus funds will be released to train workers for the industry and are available to hospitals nationwide – as announced in August by U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

As SDNN previously reported, the federal government allocated $19 billion specifically for health care technology training and expects the employment for this sector to grow by 18 percent by 2016.

But according to Seidman, the effects of the stimulus have yet to be seen.

“Just throwing money out there won’t necessarily lead to any more workers,” he said. “We need faculty members. You couldn’t just simply double the number of students even if you had funds to support it. Will the stimulus funds improve the supply of personnel too then? Possibly. But the magnitude of that improvement is unclear at this point and it will take some years before there are significant changes.”

But some hospitals aren’t waiting for any significant changes and they are doing its part too to take on the issue. A Merritt Hawkins report says “signing bonuses were offered to physicians in 85 percent” of the hospitals surveyed from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009 — “up from 74 percent the previous year and up from 58 percent three years ago. ” Average size: $24,850.

California initiatives and backlogs

California has its own unique challenges. First, as noted by Stewart from Sharp, California addressed its nursing shortage in 2005. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a $90 million plan to be used until 2010, that allows for a partnership with community colleges and hospitals to produce more nurses. According to Stewart, in 2008 alone, 10,000 nurses entered the workforce through California’s public-private partnership initiative.

“I think that the success of the state’s initiative will serve as a model for the rest of the country,” she said. “The need for the service providers encourages the state to bring forth the dollar to be able to address the problem.”

Although the state government has implemented an initiative to address the shortage, industry workers are now concerned the $20 billion-plus deficit facing California will increase the problem.

According to Gamer, physicians she knows have been delayed in becoming licensed in the state because of the furlough days implemented by Schwarzenegger.

Luis Farias, a spokesperson for the California’s Department of Consumer Affairs, said the furloughs are a necessary factor Golden State residents should accept.

“The medical board [who approves of licenses] — like any other entity under the Department of Consumer Affairs — has furloughs – furloughs are the necessary part of the budget strategy that the state is using right now…. so medical board is tightening their work load like any other board.”

There are backlogs of health care professionals waiting to be licensed, he said, but the issue existed before the budget crisis hit. The latest numbers show that 4,483 physicians are waiting to be licensed — 1,483 are waiting to be reviewed and 14 have waited longer than the 90-day-period. The current average time to be licensed is six to nine months. While there is not a backlog for California nurses at any given time, there could be up to 5,000 nurses waiting to be licensed.

Despite the conflicting problems hitting the health care industry, Seidman said one thing is certain – Americans or Californians will not know the severity of the problem until the health care bills are finally put into law.

“There is no easy solution to the problem,” he said. “The details of the eventual legislation are still unknown — we still have questions… like, what kind of incentives will be provided to health care professionals? How extensive is the increase in coverage for those currently unemployed?”

“We don’t have a clear solution yet because it’s political.”

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network.

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Single-payer health care advocates arrested in protest

This story was reported for San Diego News Network on November 2, 2009.

See original copy of story.

Three single-payer health care supporters were arrested Monday after protesting outside the Mission Valley office of Blue Shield of California.

The protest was a part of a nationwide campaign to dispute health care companies, who demonstrators claim have been raising premiums throughout the recession and have lobbied against the single-payer system.

“The enormous amounts of money you’ve seen health insurance corporations lavishing on members of Congress, on non-stop TV ads, and advertising is killing us,” said protest organizer Jerry Malamud, who was also arrested. “Where do they get the money they spend to rig debate about the health care system? By denying care to those who need it most – in California one out of every five treatments is denied by an insurance company, resulting in denial of treatments and deaths.”

But a spokesperson for Blue Shield of California says the company has spoken in support of universal health care. Additionally, he said the company has not taken a stand for or against the public option.

The San Diego protest is part of the “Mobilization for Health for All” campaign that started in September. It was created by Center for the Working Poor, Healthcare – NOW! and Prosperity Agenda, and supported by the Single Payer Action Coalition and members of Progressive Democrats of America.

Campaign organizers have protested against and outside the offices of health care companies including Humana, CareFirst, United Health Care, WellPoint and others.

The local protest began over the weekend with more than 150 San Diegans gathering outside the Blue Shield of California office for 45 hours – one hour for every 1,000 people who have died each year due to the lack of health care – said campaign spokesperson Sylvia Hampton. About 30 demonstrators remained by Monday morning.

“So many people across the country lack real health care, while for-profit health insurance companies are being allowed to direct the system,” Hampton said. “They [politicians] have let the for-profit companies direct our health care.”

Malamud, before he was arrested around 12:30 p.m. on Monday, said he sent Blue Shield of California Foundation CEO Crystal Hayling a letter addressing his concerns with the company’s involvement in the health care debate.

The letter stated:

“We are in a battle to control our own destiny and are coming together in this cause that affects us all. We are voting with our voices and our dollars. We are the purse strings and demand control over our own care. The demands we are calling for are:

“Immediately cease all spending on lobbying, political ads, and campaign contributions and use the money to pay for all doctor-requested treatment for member patients with life-threatening illnesses.”

The letter notes a delivery to Hayling on Oct. 29 and asks for a response by Nov. 2.

Malamud said a response was not received and therefore, he and about 30 other protestors marched to the Blue Shield of California offices Monday morning.

Shelia Dvorak – West Coast organizer for Mobilization for Health Care for All and who was arrested in a Los Angeles protest on Oct. 15 – said the protests were happening in 20 cities nationwide, each taking “demands” to health insurance companies. She also said in each protest, supporters volunteer to be arrested at each sit-in. In this case, three people donning “Patients not Profits” t-shirts volunteered.

The three volunteers, including Malamud, marched inside the offices of Blue Shield of California, while others sat outside chanting “Patients not Profits,” for nearly two hours before being arrested.

The three arrested protestors — Malamud, Carl Manaster and Mary Bell — join the 115 people who have been arrested across the country. According to Monica Múnoz, spokesperson for the San Diego Police Department, the three were released and cited for trespassing.

“They received a misdemeanor citation and were released from the police station with a promise to appear in court,” she said. “They were cited because they refused to allow people who were customers of the business to pass through the doors and enter the business. They refused to leave when asked to do so by the property managers and tenants.”

While the protestors rail against the insurance giant, spokesperson Aron Ezra of Blue Shield of California said his company is not a for-profit organization.

“We’re a not for profit organization,” said Ezra. “There’s a huge amount of incorrect information presented in the protests. They are totally wrong on multiple levels.”

Blue Shield of California is separate from Blue Cross. Additionally, Erza noted that the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is also separate from Blue Shield of California. In some states, though, Blue Cross and Blue Shield work as one entity – but not in California.

Furthermore, Ezra said, the Blue Shield of California Foundation has donated nearly $100 million in the last three years to non-profit organizations “to support health care services for the needy and vulnerable, strengthen the health care safety net and combat domestic violence.”

Ezra also said Blue Shield of California has spoken in support of universal health care since 2002.

“In fact, our CEO Bruce Bodaken gave a speech advocating for universal health care in 2002 – which is pretty much the same thing they’re kicking around in Washington D.C. right now,” he said. “We’ve backed universal coverage again and again and again. Our whole history has been around trying to forward universal health care.”

When asked if there was proof that health insurance companies, like Blue Shield of California, are working jointly with congressional leaders in fighting the single-payer proposal -protest spokesperson Hampton said some evidence could be found.

“But you can’t always prove what the mafia is doing either,” Hampton said.

According to the National Health Interview Survey, in 2007, there were 510,000 uninsured San Diegans in the county; six million in California and 45 million in the U.S.

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network.

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Religious groups take a stand on health care debate

This story was reported for the San Diego News Network on August 11, 2009.

See original copy of story.

Religious Americans ready for health care reform are turning up the pressure on lawmakers Tuesday with nationwide rallies asking for change by the end of 2009.

The organizations, led by the faith-based PICO (Pacific Institute for Community Organizations) National Network, have planned a 40-day-long campaign that will include meetings with more than 100 Congressional members sharing stories of 500 uninsured Americans and the broadcast of a national commercial.

“It don’t [doesn’t] take a high school or college degree to understand us,” said Gloria Cooper, San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP) leader. “Americans want health care reform and we want it this year.”

Members of SDOP — a local faith-based organization which has been extremely vocal in its support for government-assisted health care – gathered with other community leaders Tuesday to express their thoughts about President Obama’s health care plan that’s been swimming through murky waters since he’s been inaugurated.

The religious leaders, along with uninsured San Diegans, met at San Diego’s federal building and criticized lawmakers for taking their usual summer recess. While holding signs stating “No recess for health reform,” they demanded that the health care system be reformed by the year’s end.

According to SDOP, 510,000 San Diegans were uninsured in fiscal year 2007, 7 million in California and roughly 45 million nationally (see chart). Although, figures for 2008 have not been collected – experts estimate that 15,000 Americans have lost health care coverage every day since the start of 2009. In addition, 365,000 Americans loss their job last year – leaving them uninsured.

“Any of us can be next,” said Robert Fambrini of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. “Families are suffering from the lack of affordable health care and ever-increasing premiums.”

Jamie Carrillo, is just one San Diegan, who falls under the uninsured category. A college grad, Carrillo said he was nearly broke.

“I’m an accident away from bankruptcy,” Carrillo said. “I have no health insurance and neither does most of my family. I shouldn’t be feeling this desperation for a supposed-to-be-educated, employed [person].”

Carrillo said years ago his brother hurt his shoulder while playing with neighborhood kids and his family had to pay roughly $40,000 for his hospital visits. Years later, Carrillo said “we’re still paying for it.”

Karen McManus also had a brother who faced an uninsured situation. However, she said, her brother Richard lost his life. She said Richard, died at 56 from a heart condition that required daily medication — despite being a paralegal, his firm didn’t offer health insurance and his salary was too high for government-assisted health care, nor could he even afford his prescription.

“I believe he would still be here with me today if he had access to health care,” McManus said. “[Health care reform is] the right thing to do.”

Although two health care bills are currently under consideration from house and senate committees, nationwide lawmakers are taking their legislative summer recess, leaving those two bills at the tables of committees. Both bills would assist Americans in finding affordable health care while requiring larger companies to provide health care to its employees.

Two congressional leaders are however, holding town-hall-style meetings to address health care concerns despite the summer break. Rep. Brian Bilbray held a meeting Monday while Rep. Susan Davis will hold one Tuesday evening at the Joyce Beers Community Center. Both represent districts in San Diego County.

President Obama has also carried on his town-hall meetings in Portsmouth, N.H., promising that Americans would soon have access to affordable coverage. In addition, the president was forced to defend his plan against never-ending critics and skeptics.

But with religious groups now taking a side, the debate may become even more heated.

Wilbert Miller, SDOP member and pastor of the First Lutheran Church of San Diego, said religious groups were getting involved in the health care debate because of scriptures found in the Bible. Referencing a verse from Jeremiah, he said “For the hurt of my poor people, I am hurt.”

“Our nation’s health care system is sick,” Miller said.

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network.

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