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The Waiting Room

*Here’s a brief summary of the day’s health care news. *

President Obama is slated to address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9 to lay out more detailed demands for health care reform, ABC News reported today. The move — which came on the heels of a written invitation from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) – is intended to quell complaints from congressional lawmakers that the White House has been neither forceful nor specific enough to get the job done. Ironically, the failure of the Clinton administration’s health reform effort 16 years ago is commonly attributed to this same approach of the White House presenting too many policy details to the legislative branch.

Despite reports that Obama won’t insist on a public option, conservatives are skeptical that the provision is dead. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) took to the airwaves Wednesday urging the White House to veto any proposal that contains a public option or “anything that smacks of a public option, like a co-op.” And Rick Scott, head of Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, issued a statement saying that he’ll believe the public option is dead when he can stick a fork in it. “We’ve heard this song and dance before,” Scott said, “and the White House was all too quick to backtrack.”

Meanwhile, some Democratic senators are also getting more specific about their health policy views. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) voiced her strongest opposition yet to the idea of creating a public option; Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) reiterated his strong support for a public plan; and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) split the difference, saying she’s open to the public option but not if it utilizes a Medicare-like payment system.

MoveOn.org, the liberal policy advocate, is planning 350 vigils tonight to highlight the necessity of health reform this year, The Washington Post reported. The group says they expect 50,000 participants in an effort to counter the animated town hall forums — predominately featuring opponents of the Democrats reform plans — that have dominated headlines during the August recess.

Meanwhile, consumer advocates continue to support Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), the leading congressional voice behind the push for a single-payer health care system. On Tuesday, Weiner asked the Congressional Budget Office to estimate the cost of the single payer bill, a move Public Citizen is calling “a significant step in educating Congress and the public on how to truly fix our broken health care system.”

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