In humble attempt at casting this in the tradition of Socrates, a (slightly altered) quote:

"The unexamined vote is not worth casting."

Friday, June 19, 2009

In Support of a Public Option for Health Care

So I have not had time at all to add to this blog recently, and actually started a final post a while ago that I need to finish; but, in the mean time, I had to put something out here about a public option for health care, particularly because health care reform is one of the issues that has meant the most to me. I actually just wanted to call on anyone who feels the same way to sign this online petition about it, via a site put together by Senators Durbin, Leahy and Schumer; additionally, I wanted to encourage anyone out there to write your member of Congress (particularly your Senators), urging them to support a public option. The idea is not to nationalize health care, but rather to force competition into our health care system and to allow Americans to decide what they think will be best.

It's incredibly easy to contact your member of Congress: just write a brief note saying what you are asking them to do and why, and ask them for a response. You can just send it via email through this website: (or, if you can, fax it in through the fax numbers listed on that same site--many say that faxing your comments in is the best option, as snail mail takes a longer time to get through security checks and they get inundated with email; that said, I have gotten responses back to emails I've sent in, and that's how I sent in my comments below). Here is one of the quick notes I put together and sent in to Senator Jim Webb, one of our Senators from Virginia (I just slightly altered it for our other Senator, Mark Warner, and for my member of the House, Congressman Jim Moran):

Dear Sen. Webb,

I think it's crucial that a public health care option is pushed through as a part of the health care reform efforts that are being negotiated. I think we need nothing less than a public option if we're going to have real competition where Americans can choose the health care they think is best. I have appreciated your integrity thus far in the Senate and would appreciate hearing back from you on this; specifically, I would ask that you tell me why you will or will not support a public option, as I feel that is the intellectually honest thing required from any member of Congress that stands for or against this particular part of health care reform.


Brendan O'Connor
Update: A quick addendum that came to mind here after someone made a comment to me about how there are tons of plans to choose from already. My response was that the multitude of plans doesn't include a public option. And, when there's a huge philosophical divide in our country on how health care should be provided, it seems only fair to put both public and private plans to the test by letting people freely choose one or the other--they can't do that right now.

Update 2:
After about a week and a half I heard back via email from both Rep. Moran and Sen. Warner's offices. Moran appeared to support a public option, and I'm almost positive he does, but oddly didn't state it very clearly in his response; he just described what Obama was calling for in terms of health care, and what a House draft included (a public option, among other things). Warner stated the following at one point in the response I received: "Much of the current controversy surrounding reform efforts has been focused on whether the bill should include a public health insurance option. As evidence that there is room to compromise, several alternatives are being discussed ranging from non-profit regional co-operatives to a delayed public option. I will keep your views in mind as we consider these and other proposals." According to OpenLeft, Warner is a key target for passage of the public option in the Senate. I didn't receive a response yet from Sen. Webb's office, but interestingly he has already come out in support of a public option (more here)--I say "interestingly" because Webb was a Republican before running as a Democrat for the Senate in '06, so he's not the likeliest supporter of a public option; but, he definitely strikes me as an independent thinker, as his support of a public option and his willingness to make a party switch like that suggest.

Update 3:
I did end up receiving a reply from Sen. Webb's office, though it did not directly mention the public option (even though he signed onto the above). He did include an interesting note on the overall approach to reform, noting his belief that the President "should have begun the process with a clear proposal that could have been the starting point for the work of the five separate congressional committees charged with responsibility for this issue. Without such a specific format, Congress has had difficulty crafting a bill of such challenging scope and complexity. I am hopeful that the President will remedy this problem in the coming weeks." This is indeed where the President has trended since then (though it seems like it has been a tough road to hoe, given the fact that President Clinton and Hillary Clinton are thought to have been too prescriptive for Congress in their approach to the issue). On another note, the concept of a "trigger" is an interesting one, whereby a public option would go into place if a predetermined level of health care savings are not realized after a set number of years (while this doesn't seem optimal in my view, it may just be realistic, given the politics).