Midnight In The Garden Of (Healthcare) Good And EvilS

This week, we are wobbling toward the end of the road on health care reform. The Senate Finance Committee will vote on its plan this week, Obama is limping toward the finish line, and still no People's Elbow in sight.

Over at the Rose Garden yesterday, Obama put out an impassioned message to a gathering of health care professionals, who were tapped to go into their communities and clarify the misunderstandings surrounding health care reform.

Obama sought to associate his health care plan with some of the most trusted figures in the debate, who, in turn, agreed to speak favorably of the president's plan and picked up media coverage in markets across the country by appearing at the White House.

"You are the people who know this system best," Obama said. "You are the experts. Nobody has more credibility with the American people on this issue than you do."

The POTUS is also quietly advocating for a public option behind the scenes. The LA Times reports that Obama and his aides have been gauging the amount of support for a public option and encouraging moderates to support the plan.

In the last week, however, senior administration officials have been holding private meetings almost daily at the Capitol with senior Democratic staff to discuss ways to include a version of the public plan in the healthcare bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring to the Senate floor this month, according to senior Democratic congressional aides.

Among those regularly in the meetings are Obama's top healthcare advisor, Nancy-Ann DeParle; aides to Reid; and staff from the Senate Finance and Health committees, both of which developed healthcare bills.

The measure that goes to the floor will be an amalgam of the two committees' bills, put together by Reid and key Democrats. The health committee bill contains a national government plan; the finance committee version does not.

Obama has also been reaching out personally to rank-and-file Senate Democrats, telephoning more than a dozen in the last week to press for action.

Also joining the last minute footrace to influence the healthcare bill are women's interest advocates. Saying that corporate policies contribute to the "insurance gender gap," women both inside and outside of the political sphere are advocating for parity in coverage.

"When it comes to health insurance, women are discriminated against," Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., told the newspaper. "We pay more and we get less, and often we are denied care."

Mikulski says she wants a final healthcare bill to mandate policies cover such things as preventive cancer screenings for women, such as mammograms and Pap tests.

This week will mark the end of throwing things against the wall - next week, we will see what sticks.

Until then, here's Wanda Sykes:

Doctors Pitch Health Reform [Politico]
Obama Quietly Tries To Shore Up Senate Support For Public Pption [LA Times]
Women Target Insurance 'Gender Gap' [UPI]
Exclusive: Wanda Sykes On Health Care [The Daily Beast]