Sunday, October 4, 2009

Health Care: Asking the Right Question

There have been several national polls of late pointing, much to my chagrin, to strong public support for "bipartisan" health care reform. A New York Times/CBS News poll released in late September, for example, found that the public strongly disapproves of Republican efforts, but nevertheless wants Democrats to get GOP support before passing a bill.
The latest nonpartisan Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos, however, put a twist on the question and found an interesting result.
Which of the following scenarios do you prefer/ do you prefer?
Getting a health care bill with the choice of a strong public health insurance option to compete with private insurance plans that's supported only by Democrats in Congress, OR Getting a health care bill with no public option that has the support of Democrats and a handful of Republicans?
Public option: 52%
No public option: 39%
Even self-identified independents preferred the Dem-only bill with a public option, 47% to 42%.
Greg Sargent highlighted the significance of the poll: "It's true that other polls have found that majorities prefer that the final bill be bipartisan. But here's the rub: The previous polls asked the question in isolation -- do you want a bipartisan bill, or a partisan one -- without explaining to respondents that winning over Republicans could result in actual policy consequences that they might not like. The above is a more accurate framing of the choice the public -- and lawmakers -- face right now."
Something for on-the-fence lawmakers to consider: bipartisanship is popular, but the public option is considered more important.
Over the last couple of months, President Obama has been fairly consistent when it comes to a public option as part of health care reform -- he wants one, but he's flexible. The uncertainty has been frustrating for many, but the impression is that the White House genuinely believes in the idea, but isn't willing to scuttle the larger effort over this provision.
That, at least, has been the public message. The Chicago Tribune has an interesting report this morning noting that the president "strongly" supports a public option and has launched "an intensifying behind-the-scenes campaign" to get Senate Dems on board with at least "some version" of the idea.
President Barack Obama has long advocated a so-called public option, while at the same time repeatedly expressing openness to other ways to offer consumers a potentially more affordable alternative to health plans sold by private insurers.
But now, senior administration officials are holding private meetings almost daily at the Capitol with senior Democratic staff to discuss ways to include a version of the public plan in the health care bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to bring to the Senate floor later this month, according to senior Democratic congressional aides. [...]
Obama has been reaching out personally to rank-and-file Senate Democrats, telephoning more than a dozen lawmakers in the last week to press the case for action.
The Trib's report describes a fairly aggressive effort in which the president "continues to talk up the public option" to moderate, skeptical lawmakers. The piece notes that Obama chatted by phone with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), for example, and reminded her of the polling data showing broad support for the idea.
And when members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation went to the White House to celebrate the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup win, the president "pulled some of them aside and reiterated his commitment to the public option."
Now, it's too soon to say whether this will have a practical impact. The White House doesn't have a lot of leverage with many centrist and center-right Democrats, and the president's willingness to lobby on behalf of the idea may not sway them.
But if this article is right, Obama not only stands behind the measure, but is still actively trying to line up support for it on the Hill. The odds on the public option surviving the process still aren't great, but the more the president pushes it, the better its chances.
Car wash health plan a poor alternative  Heather Sherba, a victim of the shooting rampage at a Pennsylvania fitness club in August joins Rachel Maddow to talk about what it's been like to recover from her injuries without health insurance.

BarbinMD (DK): John Boehner May Not Have Met Any Public Option Supporters
.. but he sure is hearing from them.
After House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) made this asinine statement:
I'm still trying to find the first American to talk to who's in favor of the public option, other than a member of  Congress or the administration. I've not talked to one and I get to a lot of places. I've not had anyone come up to me -- I know I'm inviting them -- and lobby for the public option.
... it prompted Hunter to observe:
Let us all pause to reflect the sheer magnitude of the insular, self-inflating bubble that would be required of Boehner to never meet or talk to a single American that thought that way, when 2/3rds of the country do, and the majority of people in his own state do. He must roll to and from work in a giant, government-provided hamster ball.
Americans United For Change had a different explanation -- fore!

Meanwhile, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) began a twitter campaign, urging their 1.6 million members to send Boehner a message:
Send him this message by signing and tweeting, and then give Rep. Boehner a call at (202) 225-6205. Let him know you’re one of the 77% of Americans who do support a public option, and it’s time for the Republicans to stop blocking real health care reform.
And in Ohio itself, home of 110,000 AFSCME members, with more than 3,000 in Boehner's district, they burned up the phone lines, reminding Boehner that 57% of Ohions support a public option.
Heck, we should all help pop that teeny-tiny bubble that John Boehner lives in. So call, write or twitter and let him know that yes, Johnny, there is a world beyond the confines of K Street.
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