What you can do to support the public option

Bumped for healthcare for all, Jerome

If you believe that real health care reform requires a public option for health insurance, you have two new and easy ways to do something about it.

Several major blogs joined with Health Care for America Now and Democracy for America today on a campaign to get U.S. senators on record regarding a public option. From Chris Bowers' post at Open Left:

We made and delivered on a commitment to bring about wide Democratic majorities in Congress. Now, instead of negotiating in secret, this Congress needs to make a public commitment to us on where it stands on health care.

No more dodges. No more vague, open-ended responses. We need every member of the Senate--main obstacle to reform--to answer four questions on the public option:

Do you support a public healthcare option as part of healthcare reform?

   If so, do you support a public healthcare option that is available on day one?

   Do you support a public healthcare option that is national, available everywhere, and accountable to Congress?

   Do you support a public healthcare option that can bargain for rates from providers and big drug companies?

[...]Email--don't call, but email--these four questions to your Senators now. Make it clear that you want a written response to all four questions. There needs to be as little room for interpretation as possible. The Senate is going to be the biggest hurdle on health care, as it has proven to the biggest hurdle on all legislation in 2009. That is where we must focus our pressure.

When you receive a response, post it on this webpage. We are going to collect all of the responses to find out where every member of Congress, but especially the Democratic members, stand on the public option. It is only with this information that we can prevent backroom deals that will sell us out to insurance companies.

Join the several thousand people who have already taken part in this campaign. I e-mailed Senator Tom Harkin, because even though he is on record supporting a public option, I do not recall reading whether he would rule out any compromise involving a "trigger" or some other fake public option.

I didn't bother e-mailing my other senator, because Chuck Grassley is the point man for Republican opposition to the public option.

If you live in New Mexico or North Carolina, it's particularly important for you to contact Senator Jeff Bingaman or Senator Kay Hagan, because they are reportedly standing in the way of a strong public option in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Speaking of worthwhile blogger activism on health care, Blue America launched a campaign to put television ads on the air. Howie Klein explains at Down With Tyranny:

Digby's been writing TV scripts for a whole week to try to salvage health care reform from the tender mercies of Democrats who have grown worthless to working families after millions and millions of dollars in legalized bribes from the Medical-Industrial Complex and the Insurance Giants. Robert Greenwald is standing by with a camera crew ready to start shooting. The first batch of ads are going up on TV in Arkansas and, man, do we need help. We have a new Blue America Page that I want to urge you to visit today.

Nothing is more important to the American people than passing health care reform that reduces costs and provides security and coverage for everyone. The economy and the nation's competitiveness will not recover if this isn't done and this may be our last chance to get it done for another generation. Since single payer was taken off the table before the debate even started, the only way to reduce costs and increase coverage is to create a quality public plan choice that will keep the insurance companies relatively honest.

There are several Senators who are resisting this necessary reform and either backing toothless substitutes that will do nothing to rein in the medical industry's unnecessary waste and outrageous profits or looking for excuses to do so. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who sits on the finance committee and is running for office in 2010 is one. She has so far equivocated, saying that she's concerned that "if all Congress comes up with is a government-backed plan, then there will be very little incentive for the private industry to be able to be competitive perhaps in the plans they will be offering and the individuals they will be offering." That's just nonsense. The only incentive these insurance companies will have to stop gouging their patients and hobbling the entire economy is to be forced to compete with a health plan that puts patients over profits.

I'm in for $50, and if you have any cash to spare, please consider supporting this ad campaign. Last time I checked, they had raised about $5,600 through the new Blue America Page at ActBlue.

See also this post by digby at Hullabaloo and this piece by John Amato at Crooks and Liars.

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The dangers of a fake public health insurance option

Note: if you support the public option, please sign the petition at StandWithDrDean.com, send an e-mail to your senators, and support Blue America's planned tv ad campaign.

The White House and key Democratic senators, including Iowa's Tom Harkin, appear to be walking into a trap for the sake of bipartisan agreement on health care in the Senate.

There is growing support for a fake "public option," as opposed to a government health insurance plan that would compete directly with private insurance companies.

If Congress passes this kind of deal and President Barack Obama signs it, we will get a enormously expensive non-solution to an enormous problem, and Democrats will pay the political price.

After the jump I'll explain why political hacks as well as policy wonks should refuse the latest efforts to derail the public option.

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Up To Date on Health Care

As the fight over healthcare reform continues to build, some interesting stuff arising; from secret centrist meetings, to heartstopping numbers at the cost of a potential healthcare plan,

There's more...

Up To Date on Health Care

As the fight over healthcare reform continues to build, some interesting stuff arising; from secret centrist meetings, to heartstopping numbers at the cost of a potential healthcare plan,

There's more...

Grassley's offended by Obama's comments on health care

Senator Chuck Grassley didn't take kindly to President Barack Obama's weekly radio address about the need to accomplish health care reform this year. Early this morning, Grassley wrote on his Twitter feed,

Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us"time to deliver" on health care. We still on skedul/even workinWKEND.

A little later, the senator tweeted,

Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said 'time to delivr on healthcare' When you are a "hammer" u think evrything is NAIL I'm no NAIL

First of all, Obama recorded the weekly address before leaving for France. Second, it's bizarre for Grassley to mock Obama's "sightseeing in Paris," as if that were the main purpose of his foreign visit. You can be sure that if Obama had not gone to France to commemorate the D-Day invasion, Republicans would be howling in protest.

Perhaps Grassley is venting because this week the president strongly affirmed his support for a public option in health care reform. Grassley has been working to forge a bipartisan consensus with no public option and published an op-ed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on Friday warning against that approach. (Chase Martyn's take on Grassley's piece is worth reading.)

Or maybe Grassley's just a little touchy lately. He wrote a letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register correcting a mistake from the Register's vox-pop feature, "My 2-cents' worth":

In the Register's Your 2 Cents' Worth feature May 4, "Disgusted 50010 Woman" said I pay $40 a month for health insurance. In fact, I pay $356 a month for Blue Cross insurance coverage, a plan that is available to federal employees. This differs from health plans for state government employees in Iowa, where no portion of the premium is paid by the employee. There's no basis for the assertion in her comments.

Fair enough, senator. But you have to admit, you've got a pretty good deal going. A couple half your age who purchase their own Blue Cross insurance plan could easily pay two or three times as much in premiums for comprehensive coverage. Even a bare-bones policy covering primarily catastrophic care could cost individuals more than $356 a month, and they'd have to pay out of pocket for most routine medical expenses and prescription drugs.

Natasha Chart recently looked into her health insurance options as a single 34-year-old woman. If she can afford it, she'll pay $200 to $300 a month for less coverage than what members of Congress receive. I encourage Senator Grassley to read her post.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent received clarification from Grassley's office about what the senator meant to convey in the hammer/NAIL tweet:

Senator Grassley has been urging the President to let the legislative process work so that health care reform legislation restructuring 17 percent of America’s economy will reflect broad consensus and garner bipartisan support from as many as 80 senators.

Still pushing the pipe dream of a large bipartisan majority for health care reform.

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