Ben Nelson came out today against a public health insurance option: (via CQ, no link)
Sen. Ben Nelson said Thursday that he will oppose the creation of a government-run health insurance plan as part of a health care overhaul, contrary to the position held by many of his fellow Democrats.
Nelson, D-Neb., said he may try to assemble a coalition of like-minded centrists opposed to the creation of a public plan, as a counterweight to Democrats pushing for it. He said he does not believe a majority of the Senate supports the idea.
But Nelson sides with opponents, who say a government-run plan would undermine the nation’s existing system of employer-sponsored health insurance.
Republicans, insurers and business groups say private insurers could not compete with a government-run plan, which presumably wouldn’t have to spend money on activities such as marketing or developing networks of participating physicians and hospitals. Eventually, opponents say, most consumers would join the public plan, either because its prices are lower or because their employers stop offering insurance.
“At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game,” Nelson said. He called the inclusion of a public plan in legislation a “deal-breaker” for him.
The company Nelson finds himself in is laid out clearly: business, the insurance industry, and Republicans. Of course, this isn't surprising, considering his campaign donation history. Open Secrets says Nelson received $608,709 from the insurance industry in 2007-2008, making the insurance industry his biggest donor group, more than lawyers and even lobbyists.
And so, Nelson has decided to bow to the wishes of his campaign contributors, instead of standing up for what 73% of the American public want: A choice of a public health insurance option.
In his opposition, Nelson can't even muster the courage to be honest about his motives. Instead, he parrots the latest right-wing talking point, that a public health insurance option will somehow undermine the employer-based health care system.
This point, of course, is ludicrous. How exactly would this undermining happen? Every person in America will be offered a choice. If they choose the public health insurance option, how exactly is anything being forced upon them? And if businesses choose the public health insurance option, again, how is that not a choice?
It's unfortunate that Nelson is expressing opposition to something so reasonable and so popular. The bright spot here is that Nelson's planned coalition of like-minded Senators is likely to be about as successful as Evan Bayh's short-lived coalition to undermine Obama's budget. That bill passed, and so will this, whether Nelson wants it to or not.