Here's the write-up of our new NBC News poll on the health-care debate: "Two weeks since raucous congressional town-hall meetings on health care became a national story -- and days after President Barack Obama began holding his own town halls -- Americans remain skeptical about White House plans to overhaul the nation's health system, according to a new NBC News poll. A plurality believes Obama's health plan would worsen the quality of health care, a result that is virtually unchanged from last month's NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. What's more, only four in 10 approve of the president's handling of the issue, which also is unchanged from July. And a majority -- 54 percent -- is more concerned that the government will go too far in reforming the nation's health care system, while 41 percent is more worried that the reform will not do enough to lower costs and cover the uninsured."
Channeling First Thoughts from yesterday, the New York Times front-pages that it looks like Democrats are going to have to go it alone on health care. "Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority's cooperation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks… Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said the heated opposition was evidence that Republicans had made a political calculation to draw a line against any health care changes, the latest in a string of major administration proposals that Republicans have opposed. 'The Republican leadership,' Mr. Emanuel said, 'has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama's health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day.'"
The AP: "Frustrated liberals have a question for President Barack Obama and Democratic lawmakers: Isn't it time the other guys gave a little ground on health care? What's the point of a bipartisan bill, they ask, if we're making all the concessions?"
Also channeling yesterday's First Thoughts, the Washington Post has the White House wondering how the public option became such a litmus test for the left. "'I don't understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo,' said a senior White House adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 'We've gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don't understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform.'"
The Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein writes against the public option: "The public option is nothing more than a political litmus test imposed on the debate by left-wing politicians and pundits who don't want to be bothered with the real-life dynamics of the health-care market. It is the Maginot Line of health-care policy, and just like those stubborn French generals, liberal Democrats have vowed to defend it even if it means losing the war."
The Boston Globe on co-ops: "A collection of little-known insurance cooperatives around the country is winning attention as being key to a possible health reform compromise in Washington, but while some of their practices have cut costs and serve as models for change, big questions remain about their ability to transform American health care… There are only a few large health cooperatives in the country. They typically combine a health insurance plan with networks of doctors and hospitals. Unlike most private insurance plans or HMOs, they are mutual plans, owned and overseen by patients through a board of trustees. They maintain slim margins, using leftover funds to expand treatment or lower premiums."
And will the White House use some version of this to make its case to liberal Democrats? "Jonathan Gruber, an MIT professor of economics who specializes in health issues and helped Massachusetts write its landmark health overhaul in 2006, said there is no evidence that it matters whether there is a public option or co-op plan. The real question is whether government uses its regulatory power to mandate lower rates and whether there are changes in how care is administered, he said. 'Both sides have latched onto this theoretical symbolic power as opposed to real relevance,' Gruber said of the debate about the public option versus the co-op plans. 'It would be an enormous crime if health care didn't happen because of a fight over a public option.'"
Wondering how co-ops work? The Boston Globe does a Frequently Asked Questions...
"President Barack Obama has indicated a willingness to drop a government-run health care plan from any overhaul. The White House says that's not a shift. Actually, it is. ... 'Must include' became 'whether we have it or don't have it.'"
In international affairs, "U.S. President Barack Obama has started reaching out to some of Pakistan's most fervent Islamist and anti-American parties, including one that helped give rise to the Taliban, trying to improve Washington's image in the nuclear-armed state. Obama's special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, is initiating dialogue between the United States and religious parties previous administrations had largely shunned, both sides said." Predictably, neo-con spokesman John Bolton doesn't like it.
The AP: "President Barack Obama will appear in a back-to-school television special with singer Kelly Clarkson and basketball star LeBron James next month. Obama is appearing in a 30-minute documentary that will air at 8 p.m. Sept. 8 on BET, MTV, VH1, CMT, Comedy Central, Spike TV and Nickelodeon, all of them Viacom networks… The program marks the kickoff of an education initiative by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom Inc. Called "Get Schooled," the five-year campaign is aimed at improving this country's dismal high school and college completion rates."