Key senators may rebuff Obama on health care
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Last Updated: Thursday, October 22, 2009, 13:51
Washington: The Democrats' control of a hefty majority in the Senate — plus the House — would suggest that President Barack Obama is within reach of overhauling the nation's health care system this fall.

But the numbers mask a more complicated reality: Obama and Democratic leaders have modest leverage over several pivotal Senate Democrats who are more concerned about their next election or feel they have little to lose by opposing their party's hierarchy.

One is still smarting from being forced to abandon next year's election. Another had to leave the Democratic Party to stay in office. And some are from states that Obama lost badly last year.

These factors will limit the president's ability to play his strongest card — an appeal for party loyalty and Democratic achievement — in trying to muster the 60 votes his allies will need this fall to overcome a Republican filibuster in the 100-member Senate.

When lawmakers face a tough vote, their uppermost thought is "survival," said Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican who spent three terms in the Senate.

On a very few occasions, Simpson said, then-President George H.W. Bush asked him to cast a vote likely to cause him political problems back home. That was perhaps three times in 18 years, said Simpson, who held a GOP leadership post. "I swallowed hard and went over the cliff," he said.

But it's a sacrifice that presidents and party leaders should not count on, he said.

The Democratic leaders' limited leverage will complicate the push for allowing the government to sell insurance in competition with private companies. Some Senate Democrats who oppose the idea are from states that voted heavily against Obama last fall.

Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln faces a potentially tough re-election race next year in Arkansas, where Obama lost to Republican John McCain by 20 percentage points. She says she will base her health care votes on what is best for Arkansans.

Choice and competition among insurers are good, Lincoln said, but "I've ruled out a government-funded and a government-operated plan."

Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, where Obama lost by a similar margin, said she might be willing to let some states try "fallback or trigger" mechanisms that would create a public option if residents don't have enough insurance choices.

Bureau Report

Melbourne: Melbourne-based Swinburne University has launched a unique online treatment clinic for people with anxiety disorder.

The online assessment and treatment clinic has been developed by the University's National eTherapy Centre and is said to be one of its kind in the world.

"Anxiety Online is the first full-service online psychology clinic in the world," David Austin, Co-Director of the National eTherapy Centre said in a statement.

"It is the first to offer a complete service online, from assessment through to clinical treatment, in the convenience of a person's own home" he said.

The service includes free online psychological assessments, diagnoses and educational information on anxiety disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Social Phobia.

"The service can be accessed by people from remote and regional areas anywhere in the world, people who don't have a choice in regards to accessing face-to-face psych services because they simply don’t exist," Austin said.

Austin also expects the online treatment service will appeal to people who aren't comfortable visiting a therapist face-to-face.

"Our experiences to date suggest people participate in online treatment services for a number of reasons. It helps people avoid the social stigma associated with many anxiety disorders, and it is often more convenient and accessible," he said.

Users are given a unique login and password and after an initial online assessment can access a free 12-week self-directed program based on their diagnosed disorder.

Anxiety Online is provided by the National eTherapy Centre at Swinburne University of Technology and is funded by Australia’s Federal Department of Health and Ageing.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, October 22, 2009, 13:51

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