I get The Note, a daily digest of what’s happening in Washington, along with political alerts throughout the day from the ABC News Political Unit. Today’s story is about Clinton’s new healthcare plan and how it has at least given Dems and Reps something to agree on — they don’t like it.

But that isn’t what struck me.

It was the box at the bottom of the page where the Audience Favorites (the popular stories of the day) are listed. The top story is about whether or not Britney will lose custody of her sons, two stories about the O.J. ‘Sting’, a story about a mother dousing her girls in gasoline, and a story about a student being tasered at a pol event.

Everyone wants change in the health care system. People who have it are worried they’ll lose it. I’ve got several very smart, capable friends who are out of work.Yesterday I spoke with a friend who has a Ph.D. and has just accepted a 30 hour/week job driving a school bus just to get health care. I’ve got several other friends who choose to work for themselves. Few of them have adequate coverage. Last week my own health insurance costs went up – again! Even colleagues who have coverage through their employer know that it is a tenuous compact. This is an issue that is uniting unusual characters because our deteriorating system has had such an adverse affect on us all.

As the NY Times week in review article noted last Sunday, “while this is clearly a moment of political opportunity” we’ve been here before. It was inconceivable that health care reform would collapse in 1993 when nearly three-fourths of Americans said they supported the Clinton plan. The Times proposes that we can’t have health care reform until “those who have theirs” are assured that coverage for everyone will not require them to make sacrifices. Allaying these fears seems to be the priority for our current slate of candidates. And perhaps the fact that we can no longer sing the mantra about the virtues of the American health system- that we might cost too much, have a lot of people uninsured, but “by golly it’s the best health care in the world” – will inspire us to make changes.

That assumes, of course that people are paying attention to what matters. Which brings me back to my “audience favorites”. In the overall scheme of things, who raises Britney’s kids will have less impact on the American people than what Congress and the future President do about our health care crisis. But it is hard to imagine policy-makers feeling any pressure to do the hard work necessary to solve this mess when we aren’t even paying attention. They can make pronouncements about their intent knowing they’ll never have to deliver because we are so easily distracted. I’d love to believe that we will finally get some relief from the burden of our bloated, inefficient, inequitable health care system, but the skeptic in me worries that policy-makers will still be promising reform while the American people are riveted on the exploits of Britney’s grown sons.

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