by Bob Geary
Update 2/22: Democratic sigs on the pro-public option letter now up to 19 with Sen. Specter, D-PA. Not surprising, since Specter has a tough primary and election ahead and the public option is popular. Still no Hagan, however. (And Menendez, D-NJ, makes 20.) I sent a query to Sen. Hagan's office Friday afternoon asking for her position and/or comment on the letter. No response as yet. Here's Ezra Klein on "the strange politics of the public option" -- i.e., people want it, the Democrats want to be the party of the people, and yet ...)
All right, I'll bite. Four senators signed a letter to Harry Reid, and then four more did, and ... now it's up to 17 with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. But that list of 17 does not include our own Sen. Kay Hagan as yet. BlueNC is on her case, and the Progressive Pulse is copying BlueNC, and what the heck, so will I, even though it's probably whistling in the graveyard where health care reform is concerned. Except that --
Imho, the public's support for health care reform, and their faith in the Democrats, evaporated at the moment when the one part of the bill they understood the best -- the public option -- was deep-sixed in the Senate. Up to that point, people could be assured that, yes, they were going to be required to buy health insurance; and yes, the insurance products in the market are overpriced and full of loopholes; but the saving grace would be that a public product ("option") would also be offered. And it would be at least as good as, and -- unless the Blue Crosses got with it and cut their rates -- significantly cheaper, than the alternatives. So maybe HCR wouldn't be perfect, or even good. But at least it would improve on the status quo.
In other words, all that complicated stuff in the 2,000-page bill that the lobbyists wrote? Our only protection against it was the one page where it said, if all else fails, we'll offer you an insurance option modeled on Medicare, which everybody likes.
And then Obama and the Dems ditched it to get Joe (I'm the insurance industry's senator) Lieberman's vote and some phantom Republicans.
Oops, no Republicans, and they managed to lose Ted Kennedy's seat in the bargain.
So now, the only way to pass an HCR bill is with 50 Democrats plus VP Biden plus some of these. And the surest way to convince the public that the Democrats aren't just passing a load of crap is to put the g**d%$#'d public option back in the bill. Which will also signal the world that the Cowardly Dems have visited the Wizard and found their Courage.
Kay's Washington office:
WASHINGTON, DC OFFICE
521 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510