Senator Cantwell tells constituents at forum: "I support a public plan"
Joining Senator Cantwell for today's event are representatives from Regence Blue Shield, Premera Blue Cross, AARP Washington, Group Health Cooperative, Washington State Labor Council, Physicians for a National Health Program, and Community Health Network of Washington. Also present are Senator Karen Keiser and Governor Chris Gregoire, representing state government.
We've just finished a lengthy hour of introductory remarks from all the panelists, and are just getting into questions. The first question was whether Senator Cantwell would support a public option for healthcare. The answer?
"Yes, I support a public plan."
But what exactly she means by that, well, we don't know. It sounds like she's not even sure herself. We do appreciate her going on the record in support of putting us on the path towards universal coverage for every American.
The devil, of course, is in the details. Getting universal coverage starts, minimally, with a robust public option that is available nationwide, immediately accessible on Day One, and answerable to the American people and Congress.
UPDATE: Joel Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and I asked Cantwell what she meant by the phrase "public plan". Apparently, Cantwell's definition of "public plan" is fluid; it could include some kind of government-backed health-care-cooperative system, as has been reported elsewhere. But a co-op scheme is not necessarily what Cantwell will be for. She indicated she would be following the lead of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.
Reading between the lines of her response, if Baucus can be convinced to support a real public plan, then Senator Cantwell will almost assuredly follow suit. Incredible, but polite pressure clearly needs to be brought to bear on Baucus to convince him that we need true healthcare reform, not quarter measures.
(Full measures would be legislating the creation of a single payer system; the public plan that many progressive groups and members of Congress are coalescing around could already be construed as half measures).