Facing pressure from Republicans and–imagine that–the American people, the Obama administration hints that it may pull the plug on the ‘public option’
I wonder why the White House wasn’t able to sell the “public option”?
According to an Associated Press report, Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius has hinted that the White House may be preparing to drop the “public option” from its plans to reform the American health care system.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that government alternative to private health insurance is “not the essential element” of the administration’s health care overhaul. The White House would be open to co-ops, she said, a sign that Democrats want a compromise so they can declare a victory.
Not the essential element? Really? Only a month ago, in an op-ed piece penned for U.S. News & World Report barely even a month ago, Sebelius wrote that “creation of a public health insurance option” will help solve problems like lack of choice among health care plans, “skyrocketing” health insurance premiums, and “ever-increasing deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.”
“The health care status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable,” Sebelius wrote on July 13, touting a public health insurance option that would “create competition that will bring premiums down and make health care affordable,” would “keep insurance companies honest and help cut waste from the system,” and would provide “needed stability and security, so you will always have an affordable healthcare option even if you lose your job, change jobs, move, or have a pre-existing medical condition.”
To hear it from Sebelius just over a month ago, the public option sounds pretty important. Yet, just today, she says it’s not essential? It must be nice for the Democrats to have a set of core convictions, values, and principles so conveniently malleable depending upon the political winds.
For the record, I wonder what some of Sebelius’ Democratic Party colleagues were saying, and if they deemed the public option to be so gosh-darned expendable.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY):
The healthcare reform bill that emerges from Congress this year will include a government-run public health insurance option, regardless of the bipartisan negotiations seeking a compromise in the Senate, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday.
“Make no mistake about it, the president is for this strongly. There will be a public option in the final bill,” Schumer said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):
Asked by HuffPost if she would allow a reform package without a public option out of the House, she responded: “It’s not a question of allow. It wouldn’t have the votes.”
The bill would lack the votes because the GOP generally opposes Democratic reform proposals, and the 77 member Congressional Progressive Caucus — rarely heard from on the Hill — has been particularly vocal in its commitment to oppose any reform that doesn’t include a public option. The public plan’s popularity extends beyond progressives and is broadly popular with the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and even two-fifths of Blue Dogs, the conservative Democratic coalition.
Pelosi, during the press conference, also rejected a compromise proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) to create private, nonprofit, regional health care cooperatives instead of a national public option.
Pelosi wasn’t having it: “Not instead of a public option, no,” she said.
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA):
Still, the congressman explained that, no matter the calls for compromise, he simply would not budge when it came to the public option, an emphatic statement received by this Philadelphia crowd with roaring applause.
Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV):
“What I have to worry about is, are co-ops going to be effective taking on these gigantic insurance companies? And from everything I know from people who represent them, the answer is a flat ‘no.’”
“If you are going to fight the insurance industry with a system that might fail, I sort of feel an obligation to know about that and to learn about that,” Rockefeller said. “I can’t vote now or later for something in which the big insurance companies are going to beat the tar out of what are totally nonexistent health care co-ops.”
“If it is a choice between getting a good health care bill and doing it in reconciliation, I will take that in a shot,” Rockefeller said. “What I don’t like is no result. And if it takes more time to get a result — even if has to be done through reconciliation as a last resort — don’t think I am going to lose sleep over that.”
Rep. Eliot Engel(D-NY):
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) called the inclusion of the public plan “a line in the sand.”
“We’re trying to provide health care to 47 million uninsured people,” Engel said. “I believe the way to help them is to have a robust public option with plans tied to Medicare.”
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA):
“Of the thousands of issues we address in this legislation, only a handful give us an opportunity to make real progress,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee who pushed to protect the public plan. “This is one of them.”
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA):
Consensus against a public option among Blue Dogs is not uniform, says Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Waxman heads one of the three House panels that put together the House reform plan.
“It’s not a correct statement to say they’re against a public option. They want some changes in the public option,” Waxman says, speaking at the press conference with Pelosi. “Some would prefer not to have a public option, but we have to bring everybody together, because a large part of our Democratic Caucus wants a public option, as does the President of the United States.”
Jim Cooper (D-TN):
A key conservative House Democrat threw his support on Monday to a public health care option without a so-called “trigger” that could prevent it from being implemented.
“I’m for a public option. I like Chuck Schumer’s approach. It does not have a trigger in it,” said Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.), the vice chairman of the Blue Dog Health Care Task Force.
On Saturday, Cooper told constituents at a town hall on health care almost exactly the same thing. “We should be for it, just like President Obama’s letter says,” Cooper told a voter in response to a question about the public option under consideration as part of the health care reform.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA):
“The Senate health committee continues to make steady progress in marking up comprehensive health reform legislation. We have already produced a very robust Prevention and Public Health title, which I took the lead in drafting. And, yesterday, we began marking up the Coverage title.
This bill will bring major changes to America’s health system.
By emphasizing prevention and public health, it will help to recreate America as a genuine wellness society.
It will dramatically reduce the number of people without insurance.
And it will include a public option – something that, for the first time, will ensure competition and give consumers a real choice.”
When asked about compromising on the public-option provision in order to win a reform package, he said “we have already compromised” by leaving single-payer health care off the table from the start.
As a result, “The only piece of reform left worth doing is the public option,” he said.
And that’s just what I could wrangle up with a few spare minutes’ time. Listen, folks, every single one of you concerned Americans out there, those of you who feel powerless, who despair in thinking that we have somehow lost control of our nation, should be extremely proud of yourselves and what you are doing. Yes, the time and effort you put into your reasoned arguments has been important, and yes, the passion with which you delivered them has been equally so — but, to borrow a phrase from our reeling Health and Human Services secretary, neither your volume nor your reason has been the “essential element” here.
What has been absolutely essential is your courage, your willingness to throw yourselves headfirst outside your comfort zones. Many of you are getting involved for the first time, attending a town meeting for the first time, injecting your informed opinion in that watercooler conversation at work for the first time, and confronting an elected official in defense of your freedom and liberty for the first time. That, friends and neighbors, has been the most essential element of all of this. The American people have shown, like never before, that they are no longer in slumber, that they are awake and prepared to fight.
The health care debate is not over. The ‘public option’ will be reincarnated in some form or another, just as the so-called ‘Fairness Doctrine’ has been reincarnated in the new Chief Diversity Officer at the FCC (more on that later, I’m sure). Do not stop listening. Do not stop reading. Do not stop fighting.
Prove me right that the overreaching tendencies of this Congress and this administration will come back to bite them. Prove me right that Obama’s presidency and the Democratic Party’s supermajority will, in the long term, strengthen the United States of America in the same way someone who survives a car wreck has a newfound respect for life. Prove me right that this nation is a center-right nation, is filled with people clamoring for a return to the days of our founders’ values, of common sense, of self-governance and a laissez faire attitude on Capitol Hill.
George Washington, in winning the American Revolution, fought a defensive war. He struck at the British when their lines were stretched or they were the most vulnerable, then retreated artfully so as to strike again another day. On cap and trade we struck, and now the bill may be shelved. On health care reform we have struck, and the teeth are being extracted as we speak. Let’s keep moving, let’s keep picking our battles, and let’s keep fighting.