Public Option Politically Charged On Both Sides Of Aisle
Alternatives to the government-run public option for health insurance are part of a long list of policy and politics considerations that officials are pondering in the run down to the final health care reform bill this week.
Roll Call: "Centrist Democrats are increasingly interested in a 'trigger' - originally floated by moderate GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) - which would only allow for a public insurance option as a fallback if private insurers fail to lower costs. President Barack Obama indicated in his address to a joint session of Congress last week that the public insurance option isn't a deal-breaker for his health care agenda. Nor is the proposal a part of the policy mix in the Senate Finance Committee, where a gang of six bipartisan negotiators has settled instead on a proposal to create nonprofit, medical cooperatives" (Drucker and Newmyer, 9/15).
In the meantime, liberals are rethinking strategy, Politico reports: "Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the House Progressive Caucus, is among those who think congressional Democrats need to arm up. In an interview with POLITICO last week, Grijalva said his 83-member caucus - the largest Democratic bloc in the House - was going to have to re-evaluate its approach toward Obama going forward. ... [Grijalva] wasn't pleased with the president's not-quite-line-in-the-sand approach to the public option. 'President Obama was elected to bring change and progress,' Grijalva said. 'I fear that if my party and the president do not appreciate the mandate the American people have given us, the people will lose confidence in the idea that they can vote for change and get what they voted for'" (Libit, 9/15).
The GOP is apparently using Obama's 'not-quite-line-in-the-sand' approach to its advantage, Politico reports in a second story: "Obama has said repeatedly that he doesn't now support a single-payer system - where the government is the sole provider of health insurance across the country. And he says he isn't interested in a government takeover of health care, only a public insurance option that would provide competition with private insurers to 'keep them honest.' Yet critics of Obama-style reform have been able to exploit the mixed messages to sow doubts about Obama's true intent in pushing a trillion-dollar overhaul of the health care system - with powerful evidence, captured on videotape, to back up their claims. And that mixed message came through again in his address to a joint session of Congress last week, when the president said he favored a government-run insurance option but wouldn't demand one" (Frates, 9/15).
Meanwhile, House Democrats are considering using the very same government-run insurance they would create for ordinary Americans, The Hill reports. "House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.) told The Hill last week that he would consider adding an amendment that would give members the option of choosing to participate in a government-run plan. But as the bill is written, lawmakers wouldn't have the choice of participating in a public option. A leadership aide explained that the public option would not be available if an employer kept providing healthcare benefits. As the nation's largest employer, the federal government is not likely to drop its healthcare coverage." (Hooper, 9/15).
In a tip of the hat to bipartisanship, "House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) will appear jointly at a public forum to discuss health care reform in Richmond, Va., early next week," according to Roll Call (Kucinich, 9/14).