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Feingold Urges Public Option « The Washington Independent

A day after Kathleen Sebelius, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that a public health insurance plan is “not the essential element”of the administration’s strategy to fix the nation’s health care system, Sen. Russ Feingold (D) has made clear that he disagrees. Calling the government-backed option “a fundamental part” of health care reform, the Wisconsin liberal maintained that a failure to create such a plan would be to endorse a status-quo system that’s left more than 45 million Americans uninsured.

I have heard too many horror stories from my constituents about how the so-called competitive marketplace has denied them coverage from the outset, offered a benefit plan that covers everything but what they need or failed them some other way. A strong public option would ensure competition in the industry to provide the best, most affordable insurance for Americans and bring down the skyrocketing health care costs that are the biggest contributor to our long-term budget deficits.

I am not interested in passing health care reform in name only. Without a public option, I don’t see how we will bring real change to a system that has made good health care a privilege for those who can afford it.

Feingold’s comments came just a few hours after some House liberals — notably Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) — put Democratic leaders on notice that dropping the public plan could cost the support of 100 Democratic votes in the lower chamber. The trick for party leaders will be to craft a compromise that can win the backing of House liberals like Weiner, the Blue Dogs — and still get 60 votes in the Senate. What ever else you think of your current occupation, be happy that this compromise is not your responsibility.

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