Now that President Obama has given his major address to Congress, health care reform seems close at hand. But its been a long, contentious road to changing our nation’s health care system.
Legislators returning home over the summer hosted health care town halls in order to answer questions and disseminate information about reform, but these meetings became platforms for reform opponents. Anti-reform protesters disrupted meetings with yelling, shouting and jeering -- preventing speakers from answering legitimate questions (VIDEO Roundup of town hall disruptions).
The Huffington Post relied on citizens' on-the-ground coverage of the health care town hall meetings. Readers submitted video, photos and writeups of the events they attended, helping break news across the country.
We’ve collected some of the best town hall reports below, and also created an interactive map showing where Huffpo’s citizen journalists reported from. Check it out—its been quite a summer (click on a thumbtack for a link to the corresponding story).
View Health Care Watch in a larger map
Red markers are accounts submitted by HuffPost readers. Other health care town hall coverage is indicated by yellow markers.
BEST OF HEALTH CARE WATCH:
Chris Savage spotted his County Commissioner with a swastika at a town hall event for Michigan Representative Mark Schauer. Chris even caught the County Commissioner trying to backpedal by later putting a cross through his swastika.
Ellen Beth Gill reports on the fact thattown hall where Representative Baron Hill (D-IN) said to the crowd, "I would rather go to the dentist than be here." And four weeks later he banned recording devices at his town hall and grew angry when a 17-year-old student asked why.
Traveling with President Obama's Health Insurance Reform Bus Tour, Dawn Teo finds that Obama supporters are tired of loud anti-reform radicals and steadfastly believe that they represent the silent majority when it comes to health care reform.
Vanessa Carmichael wrote an in-depth report from Los Angeles, CA, where protesters on both sides of the health care debate showed up to Rep. Waxman's town hall on a completely different subject -- climate change.
As her own health care plan is canceled, Dawn Teo joined President Obama's health care reform bus tour in Dayton, OH.
Doug Porter attended a town hall hosted by Rep. Susan Davis in Spring Valley, CA, where the satirical "Billionaires For Wealth Care" skewered anti-reform protesters.
Tim Ellis attended a town hall hosted by Rep. Eric Massa in Horseheads, NY, where he was impressed both by the congressman's knowledge about health care reform and the audience's thoughtful questions.
Chris Savage attended a town hall hosted by former Rep. Tim Walberg, who is eyeing a rematch against Rep. Mark Schauer in 2010.
Sandy Goodman covered Rep. Donna Edwards' town hall in Germantown, MD, where the crowd was overwhelmingly pro-reform and supportive of the public option.
Melinda Gopher attended a town hall in Hamilton, MT hosted by Rep. Denny Rehberg, where racial tensions and anti-immigrant sentiment was palpable.
Joseph Freeman reports on Rep. Gerry Connolly's town hall in Springfield, VA, where some protesters compared Obamacare to Nazi Germany.
Nancy Bruski attended a town hall hosted by Rep. Jan Schakowsky in Skokie, IL, where anti-reform protesters dominated a mostly pro-reform crowd.
We heard from Denise Dennis, who covered a town hall in Philadephia, PA, where a group of right-wing protesters disrupted the proceedings with shouting and jeering. "It was clear that they were not there to participate, but instead to try to disrupt the meeting and make it difficult as possible for anyone else to ask questions."
Chris Savage reports on Rep. John Dingell's town hall in Romulus, Michigan-- where a man brought his son with cerebral palsy to the front of the room and had to be escorted out.
Dawn Teo reports from a pro-reform rally in Phoenix, AZ, where Senator John McCain held a town hall next door.
Sarah E. Jones covered a health care town hall in the coal-mining community of Bristol, VA: "The protesters made a passionate, well-organized and vocal crowd. They were also angry."
Daniel Bear writes about his experiences with the NHS, the UK's universal health care system -- and why it works better than health care in the US. - London, UK
Jerry Waxman reported from a union rally outside Senator Bill Nelson's office calling for universal health care. - Orlando, FL
Jenny Hatch interviewed protesters outside of President Obama's health care town hall in Grand Junction, CO.
Elaine Hopkins reported from Macomb, IL, where Rep. Phil Hare explained his support for health care reform.
Jean Accola reports from Rep. Ron Kind's Town Hall in Whitehall, WI, where the Congressman banned signs from the meeting.
Vanessa Carmichael writes about the LA City Council's decision to pass a resolution that backs the Obama administration's health plan.
Photos submitted by Eyes & Ears citizen reporters:
"OBAMA... The ANUS of AMERICA" reads one sign at a flea market on August 6 in Colorado Springs where Patients First held a rally against Obama's proposed health care plan.
The tour bus for Patients First, a project of Americans for Prosperity, which organizes against Obama's health care plan.
"AMERICAS ENEMIES LIST: 1. OBAMA 2. OBAMACARE 3. CAP & TRADE 4. MAINSTREAM MEDIA..." reads one sign at a flea market on August 6 in Colorado Springs where Patients First held a rally against Obama's proposed health care plan.
Obama supporters organize in protest of the "Hands Off My Health Care" tour bus in Colorado Springs, CO.
Colorado Springs, CO on August 6.
"ABAMA: 'God' decides life and death not you or national health care" at a rally outside a Bristol, VA town hall meeting on July 29.
"Socialism Isn't Cool" - a sign provided by Americans for Prosperity outside a Bristol, VA town hall meeting on July 29.
Gadsden Flag outside a Bristol, VA town hall meeting on July 29.
Bristol, VA, July 29.
Protesters outside a town hall health care meeting in Bristol, VA on July 29.
Homemade signs outside a health care town hall in Bristol, VA: "I want the same Healthcare As Congress" and "I will not pay Healthcare for 10 million Illegal aliens!" July 29.
Bristol, VA, site of a health care town hall meeting and protests on July 29, is coal mining country, and has been hit especially hard by the recession.