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Five Things You Can Do About Healthcare, In Ascending Order of Difficulty and Commitment

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(Note: A version of this post originally appeared at PinkoMag.com.)

Health care reform is in trouble. Rachel Maddow handed the Obama administration its ass last night, while the New York Times - in the single most depressing thing I've read all month - reported that the young people, first-time voters and 2008 volunteers who ensured that President Obama won the election last November are sitting out the most important single policy fight of the Presidency itself. It's frustrating, and we're letting fear and inaccuracy dominate the debate. Yes, it's a debate that the President has mismanaged. Too bad. If you voted last year, gave money last year, obsessed over the blogs and debates and Sarah Palin last year, this is the whole ball game.

So: Here, in ascending order of difficulty, are five things you can/should do right now to help push healthcare reform. Here goes:

(1) Ben: I'm sick of this whole thing. If I sign a petition will you leave me alone?

Fine. Here is the best one right now: CREDO Mobile (my awesome progressive phone company and brave e-organizing venture) has a petition up that gets to the heart of the matter this week: Tell Obama the public option is not optional. You can opt-in to additional mobile alerts, but right now the big fight on health care is the left urging the President to stand firm and offer a robust public health care option. No, this doesn't mean you have to switch phone companies.

Time: 49 seconds. Additional time to Tweet, post on Facebook and suggest an intern should do it too: 27 seconds.

(2) That was easy! Can I send another email?

Totally. Democracy for America has a good effort going to thank House members who support the public option, and target members who don't. Their "Healthcare Heroes" effort is an online petition with the same message as #1 (we need a good public option) but a different target (Members of the House of Representatives instead of President Obama.) It asks your elected officials to draw a line in the sand and insist on a strong public plan as part of healthcare reform. Sign it! After you've signed, it will give you the opportunity to call your own Representative as a followup.

Again: www.DemocracyforAmerica.com/HouseHeroes

Time: 1 minute, 6 seconds. Add on the phone call and it's 3 minutes, 4 seconds.

(3) Ben: I want healthcare too! Can I call someone?

Totally. A phone call to an elected official SOUNDS scary but it's actually painless. You'll either be leaving a message or talking to an aide who will just note your contact information and tally your call. So easy. For this action, lets use an organization you may have heard of - MoveOn.org. Maybe they've sent you an email? They just emailed me with a message that's the same as #1 and #2, but a new target - the Senate:

Have you read the stories this week declaring the public health insurance option dead? Well, it's not. The public option has the support of 83% of the American people, and enough progressives in the House to block any bill without it. And contrary to what you may have read, the White House has said repeatedly their position hasn't changed. But there is real danger in the Senate, where conservatives have stepped up efforts to kill the public option. Can you call Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer right away? They have spoken out in support of the public health insurance option. Can you call and thank them for their support and make sure they know voters are counting on them to go to the mat for the public option right now?

That's designed for me to call my Senators, but if you go to their website you can call your own, and they will give you a script and the number. It's good too because they have you call a District (local) office instead of DC, which freaks out your Senators more. You don't even have to watch MoveOn - The Movie to do it.

Time: 5 minutes. Total time to do #1-3? Under 10 minutes, and I've already contacted President Obama, Congress and the Senate.

(4) Can't I just give someone some money?

Yes. ActBlue.com is taking your cash, which they will (a) use to support and defend the courageous progressive members of Congress who are pushing real health care reform, and (b) go after members who won't. They have set up an effort that specifically rewards progressives who have formally pledged to vote against any health care reform bill that doesn't include, at the minimum, a robust public option. So you'll be helping those elected officials.

Another good organization, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, is taking donations to help them keep this ad on the air in states where Democrats in Name Only like Ben Nelson (D-Lobbytown) are being intransigent:

Time: 7 minutes.

(5) Okay I emailed everyone. I called everyone. I gave someone some cash. I want to go to a rally and scream at some tea-bagging racist crazy person.

[Uhm ...]

Sorry sorry. It's been a long month. Lets try this: I emailed everyone. I called everyone. I gave someone some cash. I want to get more involved locally, either by attending an event or organizing one myself.

Great! Two ways to do it. If you want to attend a meeting near you, Health Care for America Now has a good online tool to help you find the closest meeting, with some suggestions on how to conduct yourself, what to do if you run into crazy astroturf protesters, and how to report back afterwards.

If you want to have a meeting yourself - even a small thing for family and friends - Firedoglake.com tells you how and gives you everything you need. (Warning - PDF!)

Time: 3-4 hours to attend a meeting, 20+ to organize one.

Great! So Ben, why haven't you mentioned President Obama's own political outfit, Organizing for America?

Good question! OFA is the offspring of the Obama 2008 campaign. In simpler terms, if you gave Obama cash or your email as a candidate, you're on their list. Organizing for America is running a big effort (to mixed results - see that Times story again) to get people involved. Honestly, though, I didn't include their actions on the list because we're not sure we can trust the President right now - part of the campaign is to push him to hold firm to his campaign promises about a strong public health insurance option.

That said, they are trying a new tactic they just announced: a live online strategy meeting on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time with President Obama. Essentially the President himself will walk you through strategies to win healthcare reform. It's a good idea and it could be interesting; sign up and find out more here.

Is there a good site that debunks common myths about healthcare reform?

Yes - this covers the basics.

Great. What is the "public option" though?

Watch this. It's under 5 minutes and breaks it down:

So, I can get unlimited, taxpayer funded abortions with Obamacare right?

Ugh. No.

Illegal Immigrants? They all get unlimited universal free healthcare right?

Sigh.

My grandmother is a pain in the ass. She has a disease or two ... can we

STOP

What?

Come on. No euthanasia. No death panels. Not true. As long as we get a strong, progressive plan through Congress, your grandmother will die some normal old-fashioned way.

Great. Since we're talking about medical care, can I see the sex tape with that guy from Grey's Anatomy? It's a medical show ... you can't blame me for going off topic ...

Did you do one out of the five things above?

Yes.

Sorry, not today.

That should be everything you need. If you've found other ways to get involved (especially emails to family members debunking health care myths - I'd love to see those!) leave suggestions in the comments.