Heather Graham and MoveOn Team Up for Huge Push on Congress to Pass the Public Option
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If you followed the cues sent by the White House, you'd think the public option was dead. But on the heels of polls showing strong public support for a government health care plan, activists are pushing back hard -- and getting results.
Just days ahead of President Obama's bipartisan health care summit, scheduled for Thursday, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee announced that it, together with CREDO Action and Democracy for America, has succeeded in getting the signatures of 120 House members and 23 senators on letters pledging their support for passing a public option through the reconciliation process, a parliamentary maneuver that cannot be blocked by a Senate filibuster. And MoveOn.org Political Action, declaring, "THE PUBLIC OPTION IS BACK," released a new version of its ad featuring actress Heather Graham (of Austin Powers fame) personifying the public option in a race against older, unattractive and out-of-shape insurance company executives. (Video at the bottom of this story.)
On Monday, the White House released a draft of the president's health care plan, which is based on the Senate bill and does not include a public option. Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs tried to pour water on the idea of using reconciliation to pass a public option, saying, "There are some that are supportive of this.” But, he went on, "There isn’t enough political support in the majority to get this through.”
Yet the effort by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee has been steadily gathering momentum, even gaining the signature of Senator Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the primary committee involved in a reconciliation process. PCCC's Adam Green responded on a barrage of platforms (including Twitter), issuing the following statement:
The White House obviously has a loser mentality -- but America rallies around winners. Polls show that in state after state, voters hate the Senate bill and overwhelmingly want a public option, even if passed with zero Republican votes. More than 50 Senate Democrats and 218 House Democrats were willing to vote for the public option before, and the only way to lose in reconciliation is if losers are leading the fight. That's why Democrats in Congress should ignore the White House and follow those like Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez who know that the public option is a political and policy winner.
In addition to the Research 2000 polls cited by Green, a December Reuters poll found that 60 percent of the public supports a government-administered health insurance plan.
MoveOn, for its part, accompanied its announcement of the revamped Heather Graham video with sourcing for all of the ad's claims. (We've posted those beneath the video.)
The letter signed by House members advocating a public option through reconciliation was first advanced by Representatives Jared Polis, D-Colorado and Shelly Pingree, D-Maine, and announced as Rep. Alan Grayson set off to deliver hundreds of thousands of petitions, gathered by PCCC, DFA and CREDO Action, calling for the same thing. (AlterNet's coverage of this event is here.) The Senate letter was first signed by Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado.
What you're seeing here is the classic push-pull of politics. The White House wants to appear to be bipartisan in advance of its big health care summit, so it can say it tried with the Republicans before moving on to pass the bill. Progressives, driven to the brink during the tortuous attempt last year to pass a bill with Republicans on board, have little reason to trust the White House to support a public option, given the tepid lip service given the plan by President Obama in the last go-round.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is said to have told the liberals of his day that he would need their help to make him pass progressive legislation by keeping the heat on him. That appears to be the plan today's progressive activists have for Obama.
VO:The insurance companies have been feeling pretty smug. They thought they'd killed the Public Option
VO:But when a majority of Americans support something, it's hard to keep a good idea down
(VO): Because the Public Option....is back!
VO: The Public Option is making a comeback. Over 20 Senators and more than 100 House members have endorsed putting the Public Option back on the table.
VO:Because the public option is still the best wayto help lower costs, and to keep insurance companies honest by forcing them to compete
VO: Tell Congress:Use reconciliation to pass the Public Option
End card: Tell Congress:Pass the Public Option.
According to Politico: “With the Senate shiftingsharply away from a "pure public option," an insurance industry insider who has been deeply involved in the health care fight emails to declare victory."We WIN," the insider writes. "Administered by private insurance companies. No government funding. No government insurance competitor.” (Politico, http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/1209/Insurance_industry_insider_We_win.html , December 8, 2009)
According to a recent Reuters poll: “Just under 60 percent of those surveyed said they would like a public option as part of any final healthcare reform legislation” (Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0210977220091203 , December 3, 2009
As of February 21, 2010, 22 Senators and over 100 members of the House of Representative have signed letters urging the passage of the public health insurance option through the legislative process called reconciliation (http://whipcongress.com/?source=bp)
According to Health Care for America Now: “A public health insurance option increases competition, something that is sorely lacking in health insurance markets today… By introducing competition into the marketplace, the public health insurance option does two things. First, it lowers cost for everyone… Second, a public health insurance option will keep the insurance industry honest… Without a public health insurance option, there will be no incentive to control costs or play by the rules because there will be no competition. If everyone is forced to by insurance, and the government gives people subsidies to help everyone pay for it, what incentive do insurers have to lower their prices or stop their abuses? However, by increasing competition and giving people a true choice, a public health insurance option can lower your premiums and the cost to government, as well as make sure insurers play by the rules.”
According to the White House, a public health insurance option would “foster greater competition; lower costs; and give consumers a greater variety of affordable choices.”http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck/faq#i2
According to former secretary of labor and professor at the University of California, Robert Reich: “without a public option, the other parties that comprise America's non-system of health care -- private insurers, doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and medical suppliers -- have little or no incentive to supply high-quality care at a lower cost than they do now.” (Wall Street Journal, June 24th, 2009, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124580516633344953.html )
Also, a public insurance plan would force private companies to compete with the government option, ultimately reducing costs for consumers. See for example the Urban Institute’s study “Can a Public Health Plan Increase Competition and Lower the Costs of Health Reform?,” 10/3/08, available at http://www.urban.org/publications/411762.html.