Since I began serving in the U.S. Senate, I have consistently heard how our broken health care system affects Americans. I have heard about sky-rocketing premium increases that small business owners are paying in order to continue providing health care to their employees … I have heard from people with “pre-existing conditions” who simply can’t get coverage … And I have heard absolutely heart-breaking stories from retirees who have had to sell the family farm or other assets to pay for medical procedures for themselves or their loved ones.

The stories I hear are reflected in national polls that show the majority of American people support health care reform, and also support making health care available to the approximately 47 million people in this country who are without health insurance. Fully 72% of Americans polled in a recent New York Times/CBS poll favor the creation of a “public health care option."

We can take an important first step toward that kind of system immediately by demanding a strong public option and making sure it is included in the bill that we send to President Obama by this fall.

I want to thank everyone here at Firedoglake for your efforts in pressuring members of the House to support a strong public option. Thanks also to Democracy for America and Open Left for pressuring me and my colleagues in the Senate. (See my response to their questionnaire here.) Please keep it up.

Insurance industry executives and special interests shouldn’t rule the debate, and they shouldn’t rule decisions about the kind of health care your family needs. Every letter or email you write, every phone call you make, every person you get to do the same makes all the difference. You may not hear everything you want to hear every day on this issue from Washington, even from Democrats, but know that it is working. This public option would be nowhere if you had not exerted the pressure that you have over the last few weeks.

You can join me in helping to overhaul our current health care system with one that guarantees affordable, quality health care for all Americans, and includes a strong public option. Please visit my website and pledge your support for real reform. Take action in support of a strong public option and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Keep the pressure on!

I’ll be here for the next hour and look forward to taking your questions.

Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold

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