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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Senator Cantwell tells constituents at forum: "I support a public plan"

I'm in the back of the room listening to Senator Maria Cantwell's expert panel discussion on healthcare reform at UW Medicine.

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).


OpenID chadlupkes said...

Montana, the ball is in your court. What do you need?!

June 30, 2009 4:33 PM  
Blogger OneLiberalVoice said...

I don't believe Cantwell is in favor of a true public option and I find it discouraging that she isn't for single payer. Perhaps it's time for her to go... Hopefully Montana votes Baucus out the next time around too. They are proving themselves to be corporate shills.

July 1, 2009 8:55 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

@OneLiberal Voice:

Don't throw in the towel. It's way, way too early for that. Where Baucus goes, Cantwell will follow. Don't automatically assume that Baucus cannot be worked on. Baucus is the kind of Democratic senator who could be described as being afraid of his own shadow. He can be persuaded to support a public option. Activists need to be working on making that happen.

July 1, 2009 11:12 AM  
Blogger Terence said...

Single payer is not politically realistic at this time. Getting a strong public option in the health care bill is a realistic, achievable goal.

It is important that Baucus hears from Cantwell that there is formidable support for a strong public option in WA State. So the more we in WA can communicate that to her, the better.

I believe Baucus, the head of the Finance Committee which Cantwell sits on, can be influenced. However, Montana is not a liberal state.

July 1, 2009 11:56 PM  
Blogger OneLiberalVoice said...

@Andrew & Terence - Forgive me for my being jaded, but after Baucus had those doctors and nurses supporting single payer ARRESTED for wanting to be part of the process, he lost any faith I might have had in him. He's NOT afraid of his own shadow, he's counting all the money he received from Insurance and Pharma. He was one of the greatest beneficiaries of money from these interests. That's not a coincidence. And to me, that's a HUGE conflict of interest. I've written to Cantwell numerous times and all I get is a form letter response. I don't think she will influence Baucus to do anything and I don't think Baucus can be moved to support single payer (and I'm not even sure he supports a public option).

I'm sorry, but it's total BS that it's not politically realistic. Over 72% of US citizens polled support SINGLE PAYER! If they can't move this through now, with a Democratic congress/senate/white house, then what the hell good are they? Where's the leadership?

July 2, 2009 10:11 AM  
Blogger Terence said...

The New York Times/CBS poll I assume you are referring to showed "72 percent support a government-sponsored health care plan." That does not automatically equate with 72% support for single payer.

You need 60 votes to get something through the Senate and the Senate Democratic Caucus is not of one ideology. There are many centrist Democratic senators (Nelson, Landrieu, Bayh, Lincoln, Pryor, Conrad, Casey, etc.) from swing or Republican leaning states who may be opposed for ideological reasons, are taking too much money from the health care/drug industry or may just not be willing to stick their neck out (on single payer) until the public option proves that that is where we should go. And Olympia Snowe is the only Republican Senator willing to consider a strong public option. On single payer, I suspect we would even lose her.

Just getting some of those folks to agree on a strong public option will be a challenge (but doable).

July 2, 2009 1:54 PM  
Blogger OneLiberalVoice said...

Terence - You reiterated my point. "are taking too much money from the health care/drug industry". If the senator who is the chairman of the committee that is responsible for reforming health care is one of those taking too much money from that industry, what kind of reform can we expect?

I don't care about the republicans. We already know where they stand. I care about the fact that people calling themselves "Democrats" are republicans in sheep's clothing. I'm a little sick of these folks that are pretending to be representing their constituents when they are doing nothing of the kind. You might interpret that poll to not mean single payer. Regardless, there is a large amount of support for at the very least a public option. Even from republicans (the citizens, not the party). A public option is not going to be the step in the right direction you think it is. Kucinich nailed this one for me. The insurance companies will cherry pick the healthiest of individuals and leave the sickest to the public option plan, thereby costing more to the government plan but continuing to profit on people who are paying premiums but not using as much health care as the majority of the population. It isn't going to work.

And then there is the discussion of what exactly does a public option mean. If you listen to Cantwell, a public option can be a health care insurance "exchange". No, that is NOT a public option Ms. Cantwell. Sorry.

I'm really fed up with the Democrats at this point. With a majority in the house and senate, they still have no balls to do anything. We're still in Iraq and Afghanistan (despite the public outcry to leave). We still have don't ask, don't tell. We still have government state secrets being used as an excuse in court.

Sick to death, I tell you.

July 2, 2009 5:16 PM  
Blogger Terence said...

Howard Dean has a site which tells where members of Congress stand on the public option. There also is a petition to sign.

July 2, 2009 10:31 PM  

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