A Strong Public Option

Fighting to improve health care for people in my state of Connecticut and across the country has been a crusade of mine for the last 25 years. The ability to care for yourself and your loved ones and to live a long and healthy life shouldn't be a privilege. In this country, particularly in 2009, it must be a right. You shouldn't have to be well-off to get well.

Because you and millions more across the country worked for change, we have the votes to pass a bill that expands coverage to millions of Americans, improves quality, protects patient choice, cuts costs, and averts disaster for our economy and our families.

But, as frustrating as it is to you and to me, I don't know if we have the votes to pass a strong public health care option. What I do know is that whether we can get there or not is still an open question. What I do know is that I plan to fight hard to convince my colleagues on the committee and in the full Senate that we need a public option. What I do know is that I'm going to need your help.

When my friend, Senator Ted Kennedy, asked me to take the reins on this historic legislation, I did so with the full knowledge and understanding that it wouldn't be an easy task. All of us involved in this legislation are under an immense amount of pressure from all sides. That's why Congress has historically failed to reform health care. After all, presidents since Harry Truman have tried to do it. And here we are in 2009.

I really do believe that this time will be different. Many who once opposed our efforts are now sitting at the table with us as we work on these complex issues. The forces of reform are stronger than ever, thanks to so many grassroots activists fighting for change. And I am committed to passing a bill -- this year. You and I are both committed to fighting for that bill to contain a strong public option so that we can keep costs down and offer more and better choices to American families.

As I said, it remains to be seen whether we can pull together the votes to make that happen. But I've learned in my time in Washington that compromise is important, but it's always worthwhile to stand your ground on the issues that matter most. That's how we passed the Family and Medical Leave Act, credit card reform, FDA regulation of tobacco, and many other issues I've worked on over the years. We can't give up on a public option even if it is an uphill battle. And so I won't. And I know you won't, either.

This post originally appeared on MyLeftNutmeg.com