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Warming Up for Obama

Senators: Support Public Option, Kennedy’s HELP Committee Plan

UScapitolTonight President Obama gives a rather important speech to a joint session of Congress. To say we wish him well would be an understatement. We spent most of the day warming up his audience by faxing and mailing letters to the Democratic senators, starting with Harry Reid (he got his own personalized letter because he’s the Majority Leader). Here are some excerpts. It’s not “Obama’s English,” but we do our best.

To Senator Reid:

. . . support a strong public option: authentic health care reform that will cover all Americans and will give voters a reason to “vote Democrat” for generations to come. We don’t want co-ops and we don’t want “triggers.” . . . What we really want is a single-payer system that’s easy to understand—a Medicare-for-all bill. Why was that never on the table? We agree with the Congressional Progressive Caucus [1]’s call for a public option built on the Medicare provider system, with reimbursement based on Medicare rates—not negotiated rates.

Forget “bipartisanship.” Disregard the Republicans—they’ve shown nothing will satisfy them but Democratic defeat. And no 60-vote foolishness: avoid filibuster. Go for reconciliation instead. Set up the vote in a way that requires only 51-vote majority. Pull Kent Conrad and others into line to vote for cloture, and then vote on basis of reconciliation. Remind them that expanding public access to affordable health care is a fundamental element of Democratic party policy.

Please disband Max Baucus’s “Bipartisan Gang of Six” and go with the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee plan led by senators Kennedy and Dodd. Bypass the Finance Committee. The HELP plan would provide near-universal coverage at about $597 billion over the next decade—or about $1.3 trillion with subsidies to the poor, some 4 percent of the $33 billion the U.S. is projected to spend on health care over the next 10 years.

To Democratic Senators:

Pull your colleagues Conrad, Lincoln, and others nervous about voting for the public option into line to vote for cloture, and then vote on the basis of reconciliation. Remind them that expanding public access to affordable health care is a fundamental element of Democratic party policy. (Ask “go slow” senators: Are you willing to suspend your own access to healthcare, and your family’s, until a reform bill is passed?)

Please urge Majority Leader Reid to disband Baucus’s “Bipartisan Gang of Six” and go with the HELP Committee plan led by senators Kennedy and Dodd. The HELP plan would provide near-universal coverage at about $597 billion over the next decade—or about $1.3 trillion with subsidies to the poor, some 4 percent of the $33 billion the U.S. is projected to spend on health care over the next 10 years. Cost-containment is fiscally responsible.

We’ve come so close, we can’t lose this now. It’s unbelievable that with conditions more favorable than they’ve been in 40+ years, Democrats are not more unified and determined. If the Democrats blow this, they may (deservedly) suffer electoral defeats for years to come. There’s no reason why we can’t make this happen. Public option. Real reform. 51 votes. No half-measures. No excuses. Get it done. Make Senator Kennedy proud.

Help Sen. Reid lace up his boxing gloves—and tell President Obama: “No more Mr. Nice Guy.”

We hope you’ll help push the Senate to enact the President’s vision for health care reform by going to this page [2] and phoning or faxing every senator you have time to call. We also recommend this excellent video message from former labor secretary Robert Reich [3], who explains the public option in very clear language. Please watch it and pass it on.

Pretty soon we hope to get back to focusing on levees, coastal restoration, and winding down the wars—little things like that.

Speaking of coastal restoration: For an interesting take on the twin challenges of reforming the American health care system and restoring the wetlands of coastal Louisiana—both of which are sicko—see Len Bahr’s “Twin Peaks: US and Coastal Health Reform [4]” at his excellent LaCoastPost.com [5].

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