In just a few hours, theSenate Finance Committee has an opportunity to pick up where the House ofRepresentatives and Senate HELP Committee began, and include in their bill astrong public health insurance option. Only one thing stands in their way:themselves.
Since the beginning ofthis debate, President Obama and Senator Baucus have done everything possibleto keep Republicans at the table. It turns out -- not surprisingly --the majority of Republicans don’t care about changing our healthcaresystem. They’re content to do the bidding of Big Insurance by spreadinghalf-truths to score political points. So it’s time for Democrats to make a decision: Are yougoing to vote to support a public plan, which has the vast support ofDemocrats, and I might add, of the majority of Americans? Are you going tostand up for the change the people voted for in November? Or are you going to cower before theRepublican minority?
Let’s look atexactly what a public health insurance option would do:
- A strong publicoption would drive down costs, saving the federal government billions ofdollars. One hundred and ten billion to be precise, according to the latestscore by the Congressional Budget Office.
- A public optionwould compete side-by-side in an exchange with private plans -- offeringmore choices to Americans and forcing private insurers to compete on a levelplaying 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 continueto fight for insurance profits but Democrats should embrace this sort ofchange. It’s a simple choice: stand with Big Insurance or stand with theAmerican People.
Look -- we all knowthe media is obsessed with the horse race. The media decided the public healthinsurance option is dead, so it must be dead. Sure, it makes for an interestingprocess story but it ignores reality: as long as Democrats act like Democratsand stop hiding behind Republicans, the public option is alive and well. Guess what? There are now 60 Democratic Senators, which means there is noplace for Dems to hide.
Today, when SenatorsRockefeller and Schumer introduce amendments to the Senate Finance Billthat guarantee competition and choice, it’s time for Democrats to stand up and becounted. We know Republicans will balk and push back in defense of insuranceprofits, it’s what they’ve done since mark-up began -- lookingat you, Senator Kyl -- but we cannot let Republicans and their insurance industry puppet masters control this debate any longer.
It’s time. Time tostand up to the Republicans bent on killing healthcare reform, time to stand upfor what you believe in, and time stand up for the American people. You can nolonger hide behind the Republicans.
Do you have a Senator whosits on the Senate Finance Committee? [Check to see if you'vegot a Senator on the committee here.] Please take a moment to calltheir 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'soffice. Visit http://action.seiu.org/call4publicoptionto report-back on your calls.