Facing Steep Odds, 128 House Democrats Revive the Public Option

By
Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 6:15 am

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) is leading the charge for a new public option health plan. (Santa Rosa Press Democrat/ZUMApress.com)

Four months after President Barack Obama enacted the Affordable Care And Patient Protection Act, House Democrats have revived a top liberal priority that was eliminated from the sweeping health care law in the latter stages of a grueling year-long debate: the public option.

[Congress1] Armed with a new line of attack aimed at soothing deficit fears, Democratic Reps. Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) and Pete Stark (Calif.) last Thursday unveiled a bill that would offer consumers the choice of a “robust” government-run insurance plan alongside the private plans in the law’s exchanges. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the bill, which has gained 128 co-sponsors, will reduce the federal deficit by $68 billion between 2014 and 2020.

“As the deficit continues to grow, so does the need for a program that can save billions of dollars and improve health care while doing it,” Woolsey, the co-chair of the progressive caucus, told The Washington Independent. “We are introducing the public option now so it will be available as a ready-made offset or deficit reducer in this or the next Congress.”

Schakowsky argues that the lower overhead costs of government plans such as Medicare would allow the public option to create a better deal for consumers. “We could offer that kind of plan at a lower cost, and it would compete with private insurance companies, who would have to be more efficient and lower their costs,” she told TWI. “It would follow the same rules as private insurers.”

The measure is unlikely to reach the floor this year, and could face even steeper odds next Congress. If nothing else, it appears part of a concerted effort by Democrats to galvanize disenchanted progressives and attack Republicans ahead of the tough November midterm elections.

“You’re the deficit hawks,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), referring primarily to Republicans, “and we’re giving you a tool to be able to deal with the deficit.” Grijalva labeled deficit-minded lawmakers who refuse to consider the public option “hypocrites,” alleging that “the excuse that it was going to be too expensive is phony.”

For Democrats in election mode, catering to liberal wishes could help bridge the wide enthusiasm gap among voters — a key predictor of midterm victories, where the main objective is to turn out the party base. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month found that 72 percent of Republicans were “certain” they would vote in November, compared to only 49 percent of Democrats.

“I do think this turnout issue is really going to be the crucial indicator, and the election hangs in the balance on how many of those less-committed Democrats actually turn out again,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.

“That is a very real issue that we’re focused on,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, admitted to Reuters. Apart from the public option bill, the White House on Monday strongly hinted it will choose liberal favorite Elizabeth Warren to lead the consumer protection agency. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats forced a cloture vote on the DISCLOSE Act, also a progressive priority, despite widespread expectations that it wouldn’t pass.

Republicans, who have depicted the public plan as a slippery slope to a national single payer system, derided the attempt to revive it and dismissed the CBO report. “House Democrats still don’t get it,” National Republican Campaign Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay told TWI. “As if it wasn’t enough to vote for their party’s overreaching health care takeover that was soundly rejected by Americans, they now have the audacity to propose a government option which would put health care in the hands of bureaucrats and further bankrupt our nation.”

The CBO estimates that the public plan’s premiums would be, on average, 5 to 7 percent lower than the private plans in the exchanges. Providers would be paid Medicare rates plus 5 percent, a figure that would rise alongside physicians’ costs.

“Although skepticism about big government is growing, the CBO estimate gives [Democrats] an important selling point at a time of rising concern about deficits,” said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College.

Popular among the populace but highly controversial in Congress, the public plan has the political disadvantage of facing fierce opposition from insurance companies, which fear competition from the government. And progressives shouldn’t hold their breath for a vote. “It’s unlikely it’ll be taken up this session,” a House Democratic aide conceded, saying only that it’s “quite possible” next Congress. But is it?

“For the progressives, it’s now or never,” Pitney argues. “They know that Republicans will make big gains in 2010, probably winning the House and maybe even the Senate. The numbers favor further GOP Senate gains in 2012.”

Despite the historic accomplishment, liberals cannot help but look back on the vexing health care debate with wistfulness, if not bitterness. Even though the bill covers 30 million Americans, liberals felt short-changed by its lack of a public insurance program. While the House passed a version of a public option in its November legislation, it was removed from the Senate version due to a lack of votes, and subsequently pronounced dead. (For a few liberal activists, this was the final straw that made the legislation no longer worth passing.) One day later, a CBS poll found that six in ten Americans favored the opportunity to choose between private insurance plans and a government plan. Surveys have consistently found that a large majority of the American public support the idea.

At the time, President Obama, soothing concerns of House progressives unsure whether to back a bill without it, reportedly assured them in private that it was merely a first step and he’d be willing to return to the public option later.

But major domestic initiatives are more likely to occur early in presidential terms, Pitney noted, arguing that the measure’s chances of success during this Congress are slim – but not nil. “It’s a Hail Mary pass, to be sure,” Pitney said. “But Hail Mary passes sometimes work. And Speaker Pelosi likes the Hail Mary. And if they fail to make the effort now, they will regret it in the future. Better a Hail Mary in 2010 than an Act of Contrition in 2011.”

Comments

76 Comments

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Robert
Comment posted July 29, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

This effort by the Democrat Party to throw a bone to party loyalist is really a cruel hoax. The Public Option advanced by Woolsey and Stark is nothing than an attempt to deposit change into the Federal Treasury. This “plan” has been thoroughly discredit by Teaching Professors at Harvard's School of Medicine as “Piece Meal Tinkering” which is doomed to failure. Both Stark and Woolsey were supporters of Single Payer that ultimately defected to the Obama-Insurance Industry Cabal that produced the turkey of PPACA that we now have to suffer with. This bill will do NOTHING to reduce much less eliminate the 45,000 people that die every year from lack of health care nor will it reduce the 700 thousands personal bankruptcies that stem from unpaid medical bills.

There is only one solution to this crisis…That is to implement a Single Payer Healthcare System.


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Joan
Comment posted July 29, 2010 @ 6:12 pm

Citations to support your argument?


Comrade_Chaos
Comment posted July 29, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

What a crock…every time the CBO comes out and sez, “This program will save the taxpayers $ XXX billions of dollars.” AND THEN a few months later come out a tell us it is going to COST taxpayers billions of dollars.

Bull!


Comrade_Chaos
Comment posted July 29, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

Raul Grijalva is the same pinhead who opposes securing our borders and encourages illegals to enter our country.


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Hawaii_58
Comment posted July 29, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

Robert,

You're an idiot.


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vabelle
Comment posted July 29, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

I grew up with Single Payer Healthcare and loved it. Would love to have it here too. And a pony, to go with it. If Public Option has little chance of passing — and it does — how much chance would Single Payer have?

OH, and BTW… The name is *not* “the Democrat Party” (I'll let you find out for yourself what it is. Maybe then you'll remember it better). Also, too, betcha.


Robert
Comment posted July 30, 2010 @ 1:04 am

Re The usage of the term Democrat Party. If one looks up the definition of the term you will see it is a noun. If one looks up the term democratic it appears as an adjective and only an adjective. The correct form of speech requires that a noun is used to describe a person, place or thing. Thus Democrat Party is the correct usage. Now go over and look up the word Republican. It appears as both a noun and an adjective and can be used interchangably. The term Democratic Party is nothing more than a subtle but clever attempt at mind control. Broken down into it's roots the Greek word Demos means “from the people”. Thus it follows the word democratic means governance from the people. Anyone that looks at the Democrat Party and watches it's actions including the vast sums of money it receives from it's Big Business patrons knows it is anything but democratic. Just check out the Open Secrets Website and take note which candidate received more corproate money in the 2008 Presidential Campaign, John McCain or Barack Obama ?

Getting back to the Democrat/democratic conudrum. Democrat Party was the accepted usage through the 1980s. It is difficult to pin down exactly when the bastardization started but as someone who worked in Public Radio I can tell you the practice took-off shortly after a lecture series done by Jim Hightower in 1992 entitled “In Search of the Little d Democrats”.

And from what I can tell Hightower is still looking. :-)

Shake off the mind control vabelle.


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chan
Comment posted July 30, 2010 @ 2:31 am

I don't think he needs citations Robert is an idiot


Robert
Comment posted July 30, 2010 @ 2:43 am

Certainly !

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opi…

The quote closes the commentary. Both Arnold Relman and Marcia Angell are former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr Angell is a member of PNHP (Physcians for a National Health Program). Dr Relman possits that a Canadian Single Payer System does not go far enough and has proposed a solution similar to the British NHS.

For another critique of “The Public Option” check out : http://www.pnhp.org/news/2009/march/himmelstein…

Single Payer Now

Bob


jjfitz
Comment posted July 30, 2010 @ 3:37 am

Robert, I'm fine with your tenses, but what do you mean by mind control?


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jjfitz
Comment posted July 30, 2010 @ 4:00 am

Bob, just to be a pest: :} “FreeDictionary.com” Party. adj. Of, relating to, or participating in an established political organization: party members; party politics.

Might these be sequential or parallel adjectives?


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Robert
Comment posted July 30, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

Linguistics postulates that all language is coding. The Political Satirist Mark Russell was questioned on the matter and explained it this way.

“If I say Senator So-and-So is a thief I can be sued for that. If I say Senator So-and-So dropped his wallet and broke his toe I can' t be sued for that and I got my point across.”

The word democratic links to a certain set of values. Those values associated with democracy. The word Democrat while rooted in the same etymology as democratic is nonetheless a noun and has nothing to do with a set of values. Thie distinction is subtle but very important. What was the exercise your grade school English Teacher gave you ? Use it in a sentence. Here is mine.

There is nothing democratic about the Democrat Party.


Robert
Comment posted July 30, 2010 @ 7:21 pm

An adjective modifies a noun as in “the big tree”. Big is an adjective that describes a particular aspect of the tree.

An adjective modifying an adjective is incorrect.


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Americanius
Comment posted July 31, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

Isn't this the same Jan Schakowsky who was recorded in front of union saying she wanted to put an end to private insurance companies with the public option? That's not competition, that's fascism.
Every time the Potentates of the Potomac tell you they are going to save you money, don't bend over and keep your back against the wall.


Scottishksd
Comment posted July 31, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

Hawaii_58,
I agree with you and “Chan”, Robert/Bob is an idiot…?..or an idiotic idiot with
all of his idiotism. Apologies to most of the plain idiots.


Scottishksd
Comment posted July 31, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

Nearly every industry in this country and most all of the employees of the insurance industry could benefit sustantially with one simple, single page bill that
opened “Medicare to anyone” that wanted it; paying premiums until you reach 65.
Most insurance companies have already taken advantage of the economy and high unemployment rate to raise premiums and/or cut benefits on their own employees. They blamed the politicians among other things. Only ones that benefit from the current and future health refom are a miniscule number of executives, lobbyists, and the sheep they…sorry> I mean the members of Congress they own. Private stockholders….?..I'm not so sure. They need to keep better tabs on where the money goes, incl stock options, lawsuits & DOJ fines,etc, golden parachutes, etc.


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Comment posted August 1, 2010 @ 11:44 am

Why blame the insurance companies for the cost of health-care? They have to take in enough money to pay the bills sent to them by doctors, hospitals etc..


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Comment posted August 1, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

…lol….The measure is unlikely to reach the floor this year, and could face even steeper odds next Congress.


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Econdemocracy
Comment posted August 2, 2010 @ 12:05 am

Percent of Ameriacns who supported the Public Option: far abovfe 50%.

Percent of Americans who supported the much more “oh my gawd! radical” (not!) notion of a universal non-profit, public health insurance?

One with choose your own doctor (a right we often don't have today under the in-network/out of network corporatized health insurance 'biz') and private delivery? In other words, percent who support Improved Medicare For All?

answer: between 60% and 70%, way way way over 50% in other words, as poll after poll has shown over the last several decades, the same range of very high percent support (see pnhp.org)

But Corporate America owns congress, not the public, so what a large majority of is support, Improved Medicare for All, “doesn't matter”, it's “only” what a large majority of the public wants, so not as important as the needs of multi-billion dollar for profit system we have, a system of “a middle man between you and your doctor must make a buck, and must make a buck while Denying you the care you need, when you need it most”

See pnhp dot org and healthcare-now dot org


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Ek Atwood
Comment posted August 11, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

I am just a common person, 64 years of age, paying an exorbitant amount for health insurance. My husband is 67 and on Medicare. I have no “pre-existing condition”, but cannot get coverage if I lose what I have, just because I am 64. I was hoping that those of us 55 to 65 could buy into Medicare, but alas, it did not happen. I know at least ten people in that age group that have no insurance, and cannot get reasonably-priced insurance. This medical/insurance company business is a racket and we are the victims. I have family in Denmark with absolutely no worries who look with amazement at the scam that is happening in the US with health care lobbyists. Money, money, money.


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answer: between 60% and 70%, way way way over 50% in other words, as poll after poll has shown over the last several decades, the same range of very high percent support


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