This past Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee became the first congressional battleground for the public option. The public option continues to be the most contentious element of the health care reform packages being discussed and what we see as the key reform piece that will rein in big insurance companies who, under our current system, have been able to raise premiums and deny coverage at will.
With Senators Rockefeller and Schumer offering public option amendments to the Baucus markup, the public option was tested for the first time at the congressional level. Considering the status of the Senate Finance committee as one of the most conservative committees in the Senate the narrow defeat of the Schumer amendment (10-13) and the slightly wider margin of defeat of the Rockefeller amendment (8-15), though unfortunate, do show potential for the public option to fair well once the bill reaches the floor. This, coupled with comments made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his goal to include the public option in the final bill, is encouraging.
In support of Senator Schumer and the public option, members of Citizen Action and MoveOn in Albany today joined with HCAN coalition partners across the state in what was one of four events thanking Senator Schumer for continuing to be a champion for the public option and real health care reform. In Albany, health care advocates met with Schumer’s Deputy State Director and presented him with a thank you card and the message that we will continue to fight alongside the Senator as he pushes for the public option.
Though the public option has been declared dead multiple times by those wishing to kill any type of reform it remains in four of five committee bills with leaders in the Senate and the House vowing to include it in the final bill. If anything, support for the public option has grown stronger as it has been tested time and again in Congressional committees, town hall meetings and across the airwaves of the United Sates. The majority of Americans support some form of the public option and we are very optimistic that we will see real, robust reform passed this year and that it will include the public option.
Here’s a video of our presentation of a thank you card to Senator Schumer’s staff in Albany: