How Obama Pushed Hard For a Public Option, Then Bailed When It Mattered Most

In recent days, there has been an uproar in the progressive community over the Senate’s decision to drop the public option from its health care bill in order to reach the crucial 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. Given that many liberals backed a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system, the public option was seen as a political compromise.


“I didn’t campaign on the public option,” President Obama told the Washington Post. But he touted the public option on his campaign website and spoke frequently in support of it during the first year of his presidency, citing its essential value in holding the private insurance industry accountable and providing competition:

– In the 2008 Obama-Biden health care plan on the campaign’s website, candidate Obama promised that “any American will have the opportunity to enroll in [a] new public plan.” [2008]

– During a speech at the American Medical Association, President Obama told thousands of doctors that one of the plans included in the new health insurance exchanges “needs to be a public option that will give people a broader range of choices and inject competition into the health care market.” [6/15/09]

– While speaking to the nation during his weekly address, the President said that “any plan” he signs “must include…a public option.” [7/17/09]

– During a conference call with progressive bloggers, the President said he continues “to believe that a robust public option would be the best way to go.” [7/20/09]

– Obama told NBC’s David Gregory that a public option “should be a part of this [health care bill],” while rebuking claims that the plan was “dead.” [9/20/09]

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