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Healthcare: Local actions shape national conversation

June 24, 2010, 5:54 pm | Posted by Nick Sementelli

During the health care debate, opponents of reform often cited polls showing a majority of Americans opposed to the bill as an argument against passing it. Supporters pointed out that the same polls showed Americans were confused over what exactly was in the bill, and became much more supportive once they learned what was actually in the legislation. Commentators posited that as aspects of reform kicked in (like barring discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health plan until age 26), public support for the legislation would continue to grow.

In the months since the bill passed, that analysis is being borne out. Two recent polls report that support for the legislation is at its highest point in over a year, the first signs of positive movement in national opinion since the beginning of the debate. As predicted, beginning implementation of the reform legislation and positively impacting Americans’ lives drives up support for reform, especially since opponent’s doomsday predictions have failed to materialize. The chart below from Pollster.com more clearly shows this trend.

Key to this process is the work of grassroots faith leaders acting as educational resources for their communities. A great example: last week the Micah Project, a faith-based community organizing network in New Orleans, affiliated with PICO National Network held a forum for members of the community where experts fielded questions on the new law and explained how community members can access both new and existing benefits and programs.

Events like these demonstrate the important role churches and faith groups play not only in urging passage of legislation, but also in implementing it. Faith-based organizations play a vital role in the lives of their community, often providing critical social services and empowering people to advocate for their community’s needs. Given how integral their existence is to the health of communities, it’s easy to forget another role they play– reminding Americans at the grassroots level of the real-world implications of public policy and driving a national conversation that’s reflected in polling like we’re seeing now.

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