A coalition of US progressive groups unveiled Monday a 82-million-dollar campaign to boost President Barack Obama's plans to overhaul the ailing healthcare system.
"The election of Barack Obama was the beginning, it's not the end," former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean told reporters at an annual conference sponsored by activist group Campaign for America's Future.
"It was important to win the presidency so that there could be a progressive legislative agenda. Now we have one and now we've got to get to work."
Campaign for America's Future has galvanized some 1,000 organizations with a total of 30 million members through Health Care for America Now.
The move comes as Congress is set to begin marathon talks to hammer out legislation overhauling the healthcare system before a month-long recess that begins on August 3.
Obama campaigned hard on universal healthcare coverage vowing to endow all Americans with health insurance, including those 46 million Americans who remain uninsured.
But moves to reform healthcare, an often polarizing issue, have bogged down during virtually every administration since the 1940s and 1950s.
Officials hope to ensure that Obama's healthcare plan does not suffer the same fate as the massive healthcare reform bid of former Democratic president Bill Clinton, which foundered in Congress and damaged his political prestige.
Most of the funds from the newly unveiled campaign will go toward grassroots organizing, coalition building and advertising, as well as a "very modest amount" of lobbying, said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now.
"This will be a crowning achievement of a new progressive era in American politics and, extraordinarily after 100 years of waiting for this, it will happen over the next few months," he said.
Funding for the campaign, Kirsch added, would come from his group, foundations, union dues and individual contributions.
"We do this with the wind at our back," said Robert Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America's Future. "This debate takes place in the context of a nation that is increasingly a center-left nation."
Many Republicans have faulted Obama's plan, which would provide a new range of health insurance options, make insurance firms cover pre-existing conditions and include tax credits to help small businesses provide healthcare to workers.
But Dean, a 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, suggested that passing healthcare reform could trump any bipartisan efforts.
"We want to work with the Republicans, but we have no intention of working with the Republicans at the price of short-changing the American people," he warned.