The Health Care Debate & the 2010 Mid-Term Elections
Why the Public Option Could Save Democrats in November
In what appeared to be a desperate bid to save the plan to overhaul health care in America, this past Monday, President Obama unveiled a new set of proposals seeking to bridge the gap between the House and Senate versions of the bill and incorporate new measures to minimize waste, fraud and abuse while at the same time enabling families and small business owners to exert more control of their own health care.
This new plan which would cost $1 trillion over the next decade, would provide coverage to 31 million uninsured Americans and allow the government to stem or roll back egregious premium hikes by the insurance industry. As outlined on the White House website, the plan, among other things:
- Makes insurance more affordable by providing the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, reducing premium costs for tens of millions of families and small business owners who are priced out of coverage today.
- Sets up a new competitive health insurance market giving tens of millions of Americans the same exact insurance choices that members of Congress will have.
- Brings greater accountability to health care by laying out commonsense rules of the road to keep premium down and prevent insurance abuses and denial of care.
- Will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions.
- Puts our budget and economy on a more stable path by reducing the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years – and about $1 trillion over the second decade - by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse.
What was conspicuously absent from Obama’s plan was some form of government insurance plan, otherwise known as the Public Option. Meaning, therefore, that the President appears to have either caved to pressure or now subscribes to the belief that the country was not quite ready to move in this direction.
Now, any keen observer of the American political process would agree that the Democrats had been on the ropes for the past several months; that hitherto existing air of invincibility, clarity and purpose in their message seem to have evaporated.
And it’s easy to see how they got here. The recent string of electoral losses and their inability to deliver on the promise of universal health care, undoubtedly the most bold and significant of their pillar manifesto programs, no doubt left them dazed and wobbly-footed.
Nonetheless, I think it’s foolhardy for Obama and the Democratic Leadership to skate through this process without dire political consequences.
The Republicans are not only confidently ascendant; they are vociferous and strident in their resolve. There even seems to be an infectious air of assuredness about them; even when it’s obvious that their position on a key issue is morally bankrupt and indefensible. They appear truly poised to take back Congress at the November mid-terms.
And for many, this is a very, very scary proposition. A lot of people beieve that they simply have worked too hard and come so far to slide back to the pre-Obama status quo of the Bush years,
The bi-partisan summit that President Obama will convene later today at the White House provides yet another opportunity for Democrats to regain momentum on the health care issue in a classy, constructive way. But to have the desired effect, the Democrats must shed their wimpy mannerisms.
Beyond offering a chance to showcase the hollowness in Republican obstructionism, Obama and Democratic Congressional Leaders must find a way to reintroduce some version of the Public Option into the discourse.
Universal health coverage remains the administration’s top domestic priority and there does not appear to be a clear path to success without the Public Option. This reality seems to resonate once more with a cadre of Democratic Senators; 22 recently petitioned for its re-introduction into the debate.
The Democratic Leadership should indignantly and unapologetically coalesce around this single most-important part of their Social Agenda. It is at the core who they are and what they profess to be about. It would no doubt infuse a new air of confidence not just in their cause but overall ability to govern. Doing any less, would only extend the political hemorrhage begun with the gubernatorial and senatorial losses last year and unavoidably culminate in the loss of Congress to the Republicans this November.