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.

I have also written to 23 Democratic senators to thank them for signing on to Senator Bennet’s proposal to pass the public option through reconciliation—and the other senators to ask them to do the same. The Democrats will only lose if they’re faint of heart. The public option is very popular nationwide, and the public will reward you and the members of Congress who vote for it.

This also is no time for “bipartisanship” (it can only be spelled ironically). You must know the Republicans do not share the Democrats’ goal of comprehensive health reform; they want you to fail. Forget the 60-vote supermajority. Reconciliation worked for passing COBRA and S-CHIP. (Further pursuit of “bipartisanship” and talk of “working together” is just losing you votes; the public knows you’ve tried repeatedly. Enough. If you want “bipartisanship,” do it by emulating Republicans in demanding party discipline among the Democrats. That would win more votes.)

After the Republicans have either put up or shut up, then please go ahead and expand Medicare for citizens 50 and older. Better yet, go all the way and include all citizens 18 and up.

• Expand Medicare eligibility to 18 and up

• Base reimbursement on Medicare rates, not negotiated rates

• Lower health insurance premiums

• Eliminate the unfair tax on health care benefits (immoral)

• Eliminate the cruel Stupak-like abortion restrictions

• Make the reforms effective this year, as much as possible

Mr. President, the benefits to the public and to the Democrats could be phenomenal. There is no reason (excepting timidity) why Democrats shouldn’t flex majority muscles. Be bold: energize the base. Please do not take the wrong lesson from Brown’s victory in Massachusetts: What turns off the public is not all the spending but the absence of tangible results. Govern like Democrats (“What would Teddy do?”) and we the activists will help Democrats win in November.

Good luck at the summit. Wishing you all the best,

Mark LaFlaur


[ Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP ]