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Posts Tagged ‘public option’

Health Care Summit Shows Sharp Contrast in Political Philosophies

Friday, February 26th, 2010

We’ll soon have more to say about Thursday’s health care reform summit, but first wanted to share some good observations written by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post (a sharp, gifted young blogger-reporter who knows policy like a wonk but explains it in plain English). In a blog post titled “Sen. Lamar Alexander Explains Why There’ll Be No Compromise,” Klein observes:

At best, what you can say today is demonstrating is that there’s a sharp contrast in the philosophies on display: Democrats believe the federal government is capable of writing and implementing legislation that will take a big step forward on a hard problem. Republicans believe government doesn’t have that capability, and shouldn’t try. There’s no real compromise available between those two position, but they’re philosophies that the American people can choose between.

(This, by the way, is a good, clear way of saying from another angle what we’ve observed before about the parties’ different philosophies of governance, and shows why, if, say, you want public, government-directed investment in flood defense infrastructure or environmental protection, if you want public officials who just might believe in a social contract and a social safety net, you want to vote in as many Democrats—preferably progressive Democrats—as possible.)

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Mr. President, Press Senate for Public Option Through Reconciliation

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

An open letter to President Obama on the eve of the bipartisan health care reform summit:

February 24, 2010

Dear President Obama:

I am writing to you as an Organizing for America volunteer to thank you for calling Thursday’s health reform summit, getting the ball rolling again. I like your proposal that the government regulate excessive insurance premium increases—but would this be necessary if we had a non-private, single-payer option and real competition? We shouldn’t be stuck with an all-private, for-profit system. If you seriously support a cost-saving public option, why does your plan omit it? Why omit Medicare expansion? These would be the most popular and comprehensive reforms. Please, Mr. President, be bold for reform: push the Senate to pass a public option through reconciliation. The Democratic senators are timid, waiting for you to give directions. Crack the whip. You are popular; you are the leader. This is no time for defeatist loser-talk like Robert Gibbs’s in the press conference yesterday. “The votes aren’t there”? Bull. Phone the senators. That’s what OFA and I have been doing—but your calls carry a little more weight.

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“Winter of Our Discontent”

Monday, December 21st, 2009

A_Christmas_Carol_08In the already-dark of the shortest day of the year, the first day of winter, rather than denying the obvious it feels appropriate to acknowledge a certain lowness of spirits, a mood that the holidays will warm temporarily but not dispel altogether. “Winter of our discontent” (besides opening Shakespeare’s Richard III) was the title of a fund-raising e-mail The Nation sent out last week, and the phrase pretty well describes the mood. This time last year, even though it felt like the U.S. and global economy was spinning down into an abyss, there was much hope in the air because of the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. (It felt almost too good to be true.) Now, the mood is not what one would call elation, or hopeful. “Yes we can” feels like a long time ago.

The Senate Democrats are moving along with their health reform bill, but it is hard to know what to think about it. A few conservative, corporate Democrats and a certain self-styled independent have been posing a greater danger to the ultimate passage than the whole united bloc of intransigent Republicans. So far, since Saturday, the Democrats have held together with the filibuster-proof 60 votes, and many of the outspoken progressive, liberal voices who were critical this time last week are holding their fire, realizing that if this fails, much more we hold dear could crash and burn besides. (Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo lays out the steps toward passage.)

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Senate Dems, Stop: Go to Reconciliation (51 Votes)

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

“Not Health, Not Care, Not Reform”

Ed. Note: The writer of this post volunteered for about a half-dozen Organizing for America phone banks to ask voters to call their senators to press for a public option.

The Senate Democrats’ over-compromised health reform legislation should be killed, and efforts should turn now to a reconciliation process by which only 51 votes would be needed. Take the best elements still remaining—the health insurance exchange idea, and funding for prevention and wellness and for community health care centers—and add in universal access to Medicare, and put it up for a vote through reconciliation. You can keep your present policy if you like it, but you’d have the option of going with Medicare whether you’re 22 or 64. (We concede that 51 votes may not be attainable, but chances are good, especially if, for a change, the president will seriously push for it.)

Dr DeanThe reconciliation route is a strategy that the good doctor and health reform leader Gov. Howard Dean has been recommending for months and is pressing for now with renewed vigor—and freaking out the Obama White House and Senate Democratic leadership. (Dean is not saying give up: see his op-ed in the Washington Post here.) The reconciliation process may sound arcane, but as a rule-abiding way of bypassing Senate filibusters it has been used almost 30 times since 1980, including for budget- and health-care related legislation such as COBRA for health-care insurance portability, expanded eligibility for Medicaid, and the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (better known as S-CHIP). It was also used by congressional Republicans to pass the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts that mainly benefited the upper-income tax brackets. It is time to use it again . . . for the public good.

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“We Need Strong Leadership” on Health Care Reform

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Talking Points Memo reports that Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chairman of the House Progressive Caucus, released a statement Tuesday that calls “troubling” the White House and Senate Democrats’ compromises on the public option—by this point a mere shadow of the original idea (itself a compromise short of universal coverage). Senate leaders and the White House, said Grijalva,

have already compromised far too much. At some point in this process, the question became not what was the best policy for the American people, but what could be done to appease a recalcitrant handful who have negotiated in bad faith. We need strong leadership so close to the finish line, not efforts to water down a bill to the breaking point in a misguided attempt to win votes that were never there.

The House of Representatives voted on its bill on November . Since that vote, the action has been in the Senate. The action has consisted mainly of compromises and wrangling with stubborn “conserva-Dems” such as Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and “independent” Joe Lieberman, and continued courting of the Republicans from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. As of this week, the Senate seems to be moving toward creating a nonprofit board rather than a truly public option (which Lieberman has said he will not vote for, no matter how watered down it may be). Grijalva says of the nonprofit board idea:

A non-public option without government support will not bring down prices, expand coverage or provide competition for private companies. . . . Voters will instantly recognize it as a whitewash of the problem we have spent the better part of this year trying to fix. They would be right to criticize any plan that fails to address their concerns, and they will be doubly right to reject this one.

We need a public option, period. . . . I cannot support a system that forces Americans to buy private insurance and then allows those companies to collect government subsidies without competition. Our final health care bill should be based on policy outcomes and the needs of consumers, and the direction the Senate is taking does not give me confidence.

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It’s Not About You—It’s All About Joe

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

When long-serving Connecticut senator Joseph Isidore Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to telecommunications executive Ned Lamont in August 2006, rather than bow out as defeated candidates normally do, he persisted (with financial assistance from the national Republican party) and formed his own third party, Connecticut for Lieberman. He defeated Lamont in his bid for reelection in November 2006. Even though a strong majority of Connecticut voters want health reform legislation that includes a federally managed public option (comparable to Medicare) to compete with private insurers by offering lower rates, Lieberman refuses to vote for any bill that includes a public option, no matter how watered down. (See our previous post “Public-Supported Health Care Has Worked for You, Joe Lieberman.”) This ad was produced by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

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“Whose Side Is Senator Landrieu On?”

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Public-Funded Health Care Has Been Good Enough for Landrieu

Karen Gadbois of Squandered Heritage, besides being a celebrated citizen-blogger + whistle-blower about the New Orleans Affordable Housing scandal—voted New Orleanian of the Year 2008 by Gambit Weekly—is a courageous breast cancer survivor who works full-time yet has no health insurance for herself or her daughter. In this video, produced by Democracy for America, Karen briefly shares her personal, heartfelt story and asks viewers to help press Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu to support a public option in health care reform. Landrieu has received $1.6 million in contributions from the insurance and health care industry, yet she has disingenuously dismissed the public option as a free-lunch giveaway.

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Read the Senators’ Mail—About Health Care Reform

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

3DCKaufferWe fax and mail a lot of letters to members of Congress—often demanding robust flood protection and coastal restoration for Louisiana, and in recent months pressing for health care reform with a strong public option. Sometimes they write back.

Below are excerpts from several recent letters from senators in response to our letters about health reform. (All are Democrats.)

Byron L. Dorgan (North Dakota)

I do support a public option on a healthcare reform plan. . . . It’s more difficult than some suggest. Yes, we’ve got the majority in the Congress and the President in the White House, but it’s very hard to move public policy that does not have reasonably broad support among the American people. Coming out of out this deep recession there is a great deal of great anxiety and concern, and my hope is that we can build the support that is necessary to pass some good healthcare reform. We are trying.

Kirsten E. Gillibrand (New York)

I believe that by opening up a not-for-profit public health plan like a “Medicare for all,” we can ensure that every American has access to quality, affordable healthcare where anyone could buy in at an affordable rate, such as 5% of their income. . . .

Offering a public health care plan option to compete with private insurers is the best way to truly lower health costs, improve quality of care and ensure access to care in rural and other underserved areas. Injecting health competition into the health care market is the only way to achieve real health care reform.

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