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Dozens here participate in Democratic effort to press for health care changes

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 21, 2009 - A key reason Lisa Hill of Webster Groves supported Barack Obama for president was his campaign promise to change the nation's health care system.

On Tuesday night, Hill sought to help the president fulfill that pledge by hosting one of hundreds of phone-bank events held in Missouri and across the country. Their purpose: To encourage rank-and-file Democrats and independents to press Congress to pass Democratic-backed health-care proposals, including a public health-insurance option.

Thirteen women filled Hill's house for almost three hours, calling other women around the state as part of a woman-to-woman phone blitz set up by Obama's post-election political arm, Organizing for America. Earlier Tuesday, Hill had hosted a similar senior-to-senior phone bank operation which attracted seven elderly participants.

At least six such phone-bank sites were set up in homes around Missouri, including four in the St. Louis area.

Most of the women stationed Tuesday night in Hill's living room, kitchen, dining room, porch and office had similar stories motivating their presence -- a relative couldn't get health insurance or was about to lose their coverage. Or the woman herself was in that predicament.

Hill fits that mold. Her son, Adam, has leukemia and epilepsy. She had quit her job to help care for him. Now, Adam will lose his insurance next year when his mother's post-job Cobra health care coverage runs out. He won't qualify for insurance on his own because of his pre-existing conditions.

The script for the calls asked the listeners to support a public health-insurance option, and to call U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and ask to her to do likewise.

Shortly after 7 p.m., Hill and her guests heard from Obama himself in a tele-conference beamed to supporters, many of them participating in similar health-care phone banks held around the country. Obama thanked all for their help.

In a half-hour address, the president called for Democrats who disagree on the particulars of the health-care debate to "make sure we keep our eyes on the prize" and to be willing to compromise to make some gains.

"The bill you least like," he said, is better than the status quo. He then recalled last year's campaign.

" 'Yes we can' wasn't just a motto," Obama said. "It's what we're all about."

On that point, Hill and her guests agreed.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, sought to counter Tuesday's Democratic activities by circulating a video in which he highlights many of the GOP's objections to most of the health care proposals before Congress.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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