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The Waiting Room

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

In anticipation of President Obama’s major health care speech next Wednesday, pundits and officials are trying to predict the direction the address will take — and some liberals are scaling back their hopes for a full embrace of a strong public option. Administration officials told The New York Times not to expect much detail from the president, who seems desperate to strike a deal with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and other moderates. Other sources told Talking Points Memo that the administration is urging progressive groups not to waste their money on ads backing a public option. The Senate Democrats’ health care [talking points](to either propose their own plan or explain why they think it is best to do nothing while premiums crush American families and thousands lose their coverage every day) aim to put the ball in the anti-reform legislators’ court by asking them “to either propose their own plan or explain why they think it is best to do nothing while premiums crush American families and thousands lose their coverage every day.”

Snowe is now the target of considerable pressure from both sides of the health care debate. Advocates of reform gave her more than 35,000 letters, postcards, emails and petitions, urging her to help pass a bill. But a watered-down bill designed to appeal to moderates could lose the support of some liberals in the House. Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, just delivered a letter to the White House insisting that a bill without a public option would be “unacceptable.”

Although most health care town halls have been quietly supportive of reform, it’s the violent outbursts that get all the media attention, writes E. J. Dionne. Today’s big story on this front came out of Los Angeles and featured a scuffle in which a backer of reform bit off the tip of an anti-reform protester’s finger. Initial reports contained a juicy footnote — that the man’s finger was reattached thanks to his Medicare coverage — but it now appears that doctors were unable to reattach it. The biter is still on the loose.

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