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Murray says health reform will advance

Public-option protesters greet her downtown

Jonathan Brunt and Kevin Graman Staff writers

Despite vocal opposition, health care reform likely will move forward this year, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said Thursday after giving a speech in downtown Spokane.

“I think we will pass something. I do,” she said in an interview after her talk to the Spokane Rotary Club. “I can’t tell you what it’s going to look like today, but I can tell you we are all working hard to try to reach that goal.”

A Gallup Poll released last week showed that about 35 percent of Americans would advise their congressional representative to vote for health care reform, while 36 percent would advise against it. The rest of respondents were undecided or didn’t have an opinion.

In her speech, Murray alluded to the images from town hall meetings across the country.

“I think it’s pretty hot rhetoric right now, and that’s not surprising,” Murray said. “This is an issue that affects every single person.”

Murray doesn’t plan to hold a town hall forum during Congress’ summer recess.

“I can’t just turn around in the middle of August and set up a town hall format without changing a lot of people’s schedules as well,” Murray said in the interview. “I’ve got a lot of other ways I’m working to make sure I get input.”

After her speech, Murray attended a “roundtable” discussion at Revival Lighting, a downtown store. That event was closed to the public. She noted she has a health care Web page on which the public can comment.

Murray stressed that health care proposals don’t eliminate private insurance.

“What we are trying to do is create a competitive pool of insurance options, including a public option,” Murray told the Rotary audience. “Providing a number of options for people, the competitive nature of that, will bring down the cost of health insurance for everyone.”

Last weekend, some officials in President Barack Obama’s administration hinted that he might be willing to drop a government-run insurance option from a national health care plan. Murray said that she couldn’t rule out voting for any plan until she sees a final bill but that she supports offering a public option.

About two dozen demonstrators lined the sidewalk outside the Spokane Club, where Murray spoke, to let her they oppose health care that includes a public option.

“The system is not broken,” said Dann Selle, a member of the Tea Party of Spokane, which organized the protest. “It’s the greatest system in the world.” Selle, 67, said he was satisfied with his insurance – a combination of Medicare and a private insurance plan. Government control of health care will only make things worse, he said.

Tea Party spokesman Kirk Smith also advocated keeping government out of health care, except Medicare, the government-run health insurance for people 65 and older, and Medicaid, government-run insurance for the poor.

Demonstrator Krista Woodruff, a retired nurse who is married to a physician, acknowledged problems with the U.S. health care system. She cited the need for tort reform and giving people more choice in health insurance policies.

But “nationalizing” the system, she said, is not the answer. She said the $3 billion cash for clunkers program was just a “drop in the bucket” compared with the cost of government-run health care.

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