In just a few hours, the Senate Finance Committee has an opportunity to pick up where the House of Representatives and Senate HELP Committee began, and include in their bill a strong public health insurance option. Only one thing stands in their way: themselves.
Since the beginning of this debate, President Obama and Senator Baucus have done everything possible to keep Republicans at the table. It turns out -- not surprisingly -- the majority of Republicans don’t care about changing our healthcare system. They’re content to do the bidding of Big Insurance by spreading half-truths to score political points. So it’s time for Democrats to make a decision: Are you going to vote to support a public plan, which has the vast support of Democrats, and I might add, of the majority of Americans? Are you going to stand up for the change the people voted for in November? Or are you going to cower before the Republican minority?
Let’s look at exactly what a public health insurance option would do:
- A strong public option would drive down costs, saving the federal government billions of dollars. One hundred and ten billion to be precise, according to the latest score by the Congressional Budget Office.
- A public option would compete side-by-side in an exchange with private plans -- offering more choices to Americans and forcing private insurers to compete on a level playing field.
- It would help guarantee people can afford their healthcare coverage and provide coverage to those the insurance industry continues to discriminate against: Americans with disabilities, pre-existing conditions, or severe health problems.
- No longer would any American have to live with the fear and uncertainty of losing their health insurance -- secure healthcare coverage would bring peace of mind to millions.
- A small number of insurers would no longer have an iron-grip monopoly on certain areas of the country. Private insurers have unleveled the playing field for their benefit by keeping competition out. Look at Maine, just one company controls 71% of the entire state. A strong public plan -- that would cost less -- would rectify this lopsided scenario while simultaneously lowering costs and offering more options to consumers.
Republicans can continue to fight for insurance profits but Democrats should embrace this sort of change. It’s a simple choice: stand with Big Insurance or stand with the American People.
Look -- we all know the media is obsessed with the horse race. The media decided the public health insurance option is dead, so it must be dead. Sure, it makes for an interesting process story but it ignores reality: as long as Democrats act like Democrats and stop hiding behind Republicans, the public option is alive and well. Guess what? There are now 60 Democratic Senators, which means there is no place for Dems to hide.
Today, when Senators Rockefeller and Schumer introduce amendments to the Senate Finance Bill that guarantee competition and choice, it’s time for Democrats to stand up and be counted. We know Republicans will balk and push back in defense of insurance profits, it’s what they’ve done since mark-up began -- looking at you, Senator Kyl -- but we cannot let Republicans and their insurance industry puppet masters control this debate any longer.
It’s time. Time to stand up to the Republicans bent on killing healthcare reform, time to stand up for what you believe in, and time stand up for the American people. You can no longer hide behind the Republicans.
Do you have a Senator who sits on the Senate Finance Committee? [Check to see if you've got a Senator on the committee here.] Please take a moment to call their office, and remind them of who they represent -- constituents like you. Call toll-free 1-866-311-3405 and you'll be patched through to your Senator's office. Visit http://action.seiu.org/call4publicoption to report-back on your calls.