In the last few days, there has been a significant shift in the political winds in Washington towards real health care reform, with a robust public health insurance option at its heart. The last thing we need is someone nay-saying that reform won't pass. Let's take a look at the landscape.
First, two polls from respected news organizations were released almost simultaneously, both showing strong support for a public health insurance option. The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed 76% in favor of the choice of public health insurance, and the New York Times/CBS poll showed 72% favor that same choice. As Nate Silver, polling guru and most accurate forecaster of the 2008 elections, put it, "Overall, polling points toward the public option being at least mildly popular and indeed perhaps quite popular."
Second, proposals in Congress are moving in the direction of offering Americans this choice that they clearly want. On Friday, the three committees in the House with jurisdiction over health care, endorsed by the House leadership, came out with a great bill, with everything we wanted in it.
Third, the Senate is moving in the right direction, however slowly. Kent Conrad, the author of the co-op proposal, is working with Chuck Schumer to figure out how a co-op could become a public health insurance option that meets our principles:
Schumer and other backers of a public option insist that any plan must be national in scope, have substantial funding at the beginning from the federal government, and include national purchasing power in order to negotiate lower prices.
Conrad ticked off the areas of agreement that were reached Monday.
"National structure: I believe to be effective there has to a national entity with state affiliates and those affiliates have to have the ability to regionalize. I think his concern there can be addressed," said Conrad. "Second, he believes there needs to be national purchasing power. I think that's a good point that the national entity would be able to do purchasing on behalf of the state and regional affiliates and on behalf of the national entity itself."
The HELP Committee is currently marking up a bill as well, moving the process along.
And finally, President Obama, the President with a 63% approval rating, is campaign hard for a public health insurance option. He went up against a somewhat hostile crowd at the AMA's annual meeting to promote his helath care plan, and he's going on national television for two hours tomorrow night to answer questions on it.
So why, in the face of all this momentum for a public health insurance option from the House, the Senate, the White House, and the American people, is Senator Dianne Feinstein going on TV and saying something like this?
President Barack Obama may not have enough votes in the U.S. Senate to pass his effort to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein said.
“I don’t know that he has the votes right now,” Feinstein said today on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “I think there’s a lot of concern in the Democratic caucus.” Controlling costs of the new system is a “difficult subject.”
Where's the concern in the Democratic caucus? The people want reform, the House wants reform, the Senate is moving in the right direction, and the President is out promoting his plan. What concern?
The statement about having the votes is curious, too, because as it looks to me, we don't have the votes in the House for anything less than real reform, or so says Speaker Pelosi.
Why, then, is Feinstein insisting on being a nay-sayer on health reform? Honestly, the only people saying health care may not pass are hard-core conservatives and Feinstein. Even the insurance industry says it wants health care to pass!
Health Care for America Now is working to get to the bottom of this question. Our field partners in California are making sure she's hearing from her constituents on this issue, including office visits and hundreds of calls every day. They've got thousands of signatures on a petition asking Feinstein to support a public health insurance option. And they're going door to door to tell voters in California about health reform and Feinstein's positions. Given the pressure her constituents are putting on her, who is Feinstein representing here?
There's no reason for Senator Feinstein to be a nay-sayer on health care, especially given the political climate in Washington right now. So why is she? If you want to know the answer to this question yourself, give her a call at (202) 224-3841. I'd be very interested to hear her explanation.
Feinstein needs to stop nay-saying on health care. Real reform will pass this year, because we can't afford to wait any longer. Senator Feinstein should help make history, instead of standing in the way.