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The Battlefield For Health-Care Reform Now Moving To A State Near You

Activism and organizing for healthcare reform on the state level has the potential to be more effective, because while state legislators are even mo

Activism and organizing for healthcare reform on the state level has the potential to be more effective, because while state legislators are even more easily influenced by campaign donors, they're also more vulnerable to local pressure. So it's important to follow the fight in your state, make your position on strong regulation known to your representatives and lobby friends and family to do the same:

WASHINGTON — Like about a dozen other states, Florida is debating a proposed amendment to its state constitution that would try to block, at least symbolically, much of the proposed federal health care overhaul on the grounds that it tramples individual liberty.

But what unites the proposal’s legislative backers is more than ideology. Its 42 co-sponsors, all Republicans, were almost all recipients of outsized campaign contributions from major health care interests, a total of about $765,000 in 2008, according to a new study by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan group based in Helena, Mont.

It is just one example of how insurance companies, hospitals and other health care interests have been positioning themselves in statehouses around the country to influence the outcome of the proposed health care overhaul. Around the 2008 election, the groups that provide health care contributed about $102 million to state political campaigns across the country, surpassing the $89 million the same donors spent at the federal level, according to the institute.

Any federal legislation is likely to supersede state constitutional amendments. But backers of the state measures say they want to send a message to Congress and also lay groundwork for fights about elements of the health care package that are expected to be left up to the states.”

[...] Advocates of a sweeping overhaul by the federal government, on the other hand, say the magnitude of the health care industry’s contributions shows the dangers of leaving such a question up to individual states, where campaign finance and ethics rules vary from strict to negligible.

“The states are the next battle,” said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for the liberal advocacy group Health Care for America Now, “and the insurers and health care industry are primed up and ready to go. The industry has enormous power at the state level, and very few states have state-level consumer groups that are able to lobby effectively against them.”

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