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White House enlists help of doctors in health care overhaul

Advisers hold conference call with nearly 3,000

By Alan Fram
Associated Press / August 27, 2009

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WASHINGTON - The White House is asking doctors to help promote its drive to overhaul health care, marking another effort by President Obama to regain momentum on one of his top-priority issues.

White House health advisers held an hourlong conference call Tuesday night with nearly 3,000 physicians and officials of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Surgeons in which they tried to drum up support by answering questions and describing the administration’s goals, participants said.

Before the call, the White House e-mailed a 12-page booklet to medical associations titled “Doctors for Health Insurance Reform.’’ The brochure stated the administration’s case for revamping the nation’s health care system and suggested ways doctors could call attention to the issue.

Among the suggestions: hosting local events on health care, giving tours of hospitals, or designating a “Health Insurance Reform Week’’ during which events could be staged around the country.

Doctors are considered key as the administration attempts to win public and congressional support for its health care proposal. Throughout August, the outreach to them has been drowned out by media coverage of unruly opponents shouting down lawmakers at local town hall-style meetings. Polls have also shown growing public skepticism about Obama’s plans.

The public has been subjected to competing television advertising campaigns. But in response to the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the conservative group that has been the biggest-spending advertiser against the Democratic health care effort said yesterday that it was temporarily suspending its television commercials attacking the proposal.

The White House effort underscores how the administration is relying on help from interest groups that support its goals, even as it frequently criticizes others who have fought parts of Obama’s plan. The insurance industry - which strongly opposes Democratic proposals to offer optional government-run insurance coverage - has been a favorite target of the president.