Turning the corner on the public option

According to the Washington Post, the momentum is shifting toward a public option. Here’s a clip:

Democratic leaders in the Senate and House have concluded that a government-run insurance plan is the cheapest way to expand health coverage, and they sought Friday to rally support for the idea, prospects for which have gone in a few short weeks from bleak to bright.

The shift in momentum is so dramatic that many lawmakers now predict that President Obama will sign a final bill that includes some form of government-sponsored insurance for people who do not receive coverage through the workplace. Even Democrats with strong reservations about expanding government’s role in the health-care system say they are reconsidering the approach in hopes of making low-cost plans broadly available.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) sought support Friday for expansive versions of the public option as they prepared to send reform legislation to the Senate and House floors. Their goal is to pass bills with similar versions of the public insurance option so that final talks between the two chambers can focus on other issues that could prove more difficult to resolve.

The public option emerged as a flash point in the reform debate at the outset, with liberals championing it as a precursor to a single-payer system and conservatives warning that it would lead to rationing. The rhetoric reached a fever pitch in hundreds of raucous town-hall meetings during the August congressional recess, leading Democrats — including Obama — to back off the idea for fear that it would sink overall reform legislation…

The debate at this point seems to be more on how states would opt in or out of the program, and not whether or not a public option will exist.

Here’s hoping the momentum continues. (Don’t stop calling your elected officials.)

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  1. MoveOn
    Posted October 26, 2009 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Senate Democrats are in intense negotiations over the health care bill right now—and apparently they’re inches away from having the votes to include a public health insurance option.1

    But according to CNN, The Washington Post, and others, key White House officials are instead pushing a “trigger,” a mechanism that could indefinitely delay or kill the public option.2

    So we’re asking people like you, who worked to get President Obama elected, to join in an emergency photo petition to him right away.

    We need to remind the President that we fought to elect him—and now it’s time for him to fight for us. Will you put on an Obama t-shirt or button, print out our petition sign, and take a photo to send to President Obama? We’re creating a rapid response web video with the photos, so the sooner the better.

    Click here to get started:

    Submitting a photo is really easy, and we provide step-by-step instructions. We’ll send the photos to the White House, share them with the media, and use them in a new video urging President Obama to fight hard for the public option during this critical phase.

    Whether President Obama decides to fight for the public option right now will likely mean the difference between winning real reform, or not.

    But instead of standing up for a public option in the Senate bill, the President is at best neutral, and according to most reports, actively pushing Senate leaders toward a “trigger.”3

    Jacob Hacker, the Yale professor who originated the public option proposal, calls the trigger “an inside-the-beltway sleight of hand that would protect private insurers from the real competition that a strong public health insurance option would create…[The trigger proposal] is unworkable in the current Senate bills, unwise as public policy, and unwanted by the substantial majority of Americans who say they want a straight-up public option.”4

    So why would the White House push a trigger? Republican Senator Olympia Snowe wants one, and some sources say the President thinks getting her vote will make the bill “more bipartisan.”5 Others say the White House is afraid the public option doesn’t have enough support in the Senate.6

    This is a leadership moment. Let’s remind the president that seventy million of us voted for him last November because of his promise to challenge politics as usual, and show him that we’ll fight right alongside him if he stands strong for real progressive change.

    Click here to get started:


    Thanks for all you do.

    –Nita, Wes, Kat, Eli, and the rest of the team

  2. Noreen
    Posted October 26, 2009 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    The White House is playing catch up.

    The White House issued a statement Sunday evening reaffirming its commitment to a public option for insurance coverage and called reports that the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were pursuing different strategies, “absolutely false.”

    In a three-paragraph post on the White House’s blog, Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer offered, what he called, a “Rumor Check” of those recent reports.


  3. Huffington Post
    Posted October 26, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appears poised to introduce a health care bill that will include a public option for insurance coverage with a state opt-out clause.

    The move is a bold one on Reid’s part — going against the skepticism of the White House that such a provision can pass a Republican filibuster. But it doesn’t mean that the most-often-discussed alternative — a public plan triggered by economic conditions — is now dead in the water.

    There is a byzantine set of parliamentary hurdles that remain in the process of getting health care reform legislation passed. Should Reid introduce a bill with an opt-out (and all indications point to him doing so late Monday afternoon or early Tuesday morning) it would set a baseline for the Senate going forward. But high-ranking aides on the Hill note that it’s still possible that conservative Democrats will introduce an amendment to the bill that would drop the opt-out provision and replace it with a trigger proposal (which is the preferred choice of the one potential Republican vote: Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine). Indeed, it seems increasingly certain such a vote will occur.

    Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/26/reid-presses-forward-with_n_333793.html

  4. Meta
    Posted October 26, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    According to the NY Times, Reid is getting ready to submit legislation with a state “opt-out” clause:

    The Senate health care legislation will include a government-run insurance plan, but states would be allowed to “opt out” of it, the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, will announce officially on Monday afternoon, Senate Democratic aides said.

    The question of whether to include a government-run plan to compete with private insurers has been the most controversial topic in the effort by Mr. Reid and other Democratic leaders to meld two competing versions of the Senate health care legislation.

    Democrats have been deeply divided. Supporters of the government plan, or public option, have been pushing to include it in the bill before it is brought to the Senate floor, meaning opponents would need 60 votes for an amendment to strip it out.

    Opponents of the public option have argued that it should be left out of the bill and that supporters should be forced to offer an amendment to add it to the legislation. In either case, winning 60 votes would seem to be a steep hurdle.

    Mr. Reid’s decision, made after nearly two weeks of deliberation, reflects a calculated gamble that the 60 Senate Democrats will stay united and vote in favor of a motion to bring the bill up for debate before the entire Senate.


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