Could America's Seniors Affect Health Care Bill?

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WASHINGTON -- We've heard a lot this summer out of a group of Americans that isn't always very vocal.

America's seniors have the most to lose or gain out of health care reform and they're making their opinions known.

And they may wield lots of influence when Congress votes on the legislation.

Take a close look at the audiences at health care town hall meetings across the country. America's seniors make up a good portion of the crowds.

It's a debate they can relate to and they're making their voices heard.

"You should put it on the national ballot. If the American people want health care reform they're vote for it," a concerned senior said at a town hall meeting.

Some seniors say if you like Medicare, which covers 38 million people, you'll like a public option.    

"Real people are dying every single day because they don't get care need we need to have a strong public option," a supporter of the public option said.

But an ABC-Washington Post poll this month found less than half -- 45 percent -- of respondents support the plans on the table.

That number falls to 34 percent when you break out support among seniors.

For some, the fear lies in too much government control.

"We're afraid we're going to lose some of what we fought for all those years in this new health care bill," one senior said.

For others, the legislation is just too complex.

"Why on earth are you producing a health care bill that has so many pages in it and such complex wording that we can't understand it?" another senior asked.

But analysts say what's really driving concerns is a still sluggish economy and historic national debt.

"My one word to these guys is simple: Stop. Stop spending money, stop playing their game. Stop trying to change a system that isn't perfect and could be better but they're not changing it for the better," a senior said.

It's a best case scenario for Republicans: seniors are a large voting block and they're making the case more effectively than lawmakers ever could.

"Most people know when politicians speak they're being sold a bill of goods," said Larry Sabato, director of UVA Center for Politics. "They're more inclined to listen to citizens they personally identify with."

Playing to the concerns of seniors, Republicans this week produced a "Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights," promising to support reforms that will do no harm to seniors.

 

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Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.