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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Wyden Battles to Broaden ‘Public Option’ Eligibility

Pronin2 of Daily Kos discusses Rachel Maddow’s excellent interview of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) (clip included in post), in which Wyden and Maddow add a sobering note to the overheated debate about the public option — that, according to CBO analysis, it would only be available to about 10 percent of the workforce under Reid’s compromise. Wyden argues that 10 percent is really not a large enough portion of consumers to hold down health care premiums, and it could be even smalller with the states’ opt-out. Says Wyden:

The bottom line is that the public option can’t really hold private insurers accountable if it is only competing for 10 percent of the insurance market, because private insurance companies aren’t going to change their business practices if 90 percent of their customers can’t take their business elsewhere.

He also says that the opinion polls showing a healthy majority in favor of the public option would likely be very different if they said something like “Would you support a public option open to a small number of people, not all?”
Wyden will be introducing an amendment to make the public option available to all consumers. Senator Jeff Merkley, also of Oregon, will introduce an amendment to broaden public option converage to include employees of small businesses.
Looking at it from another angle, it really is amazing that in the 21st century as many as 40 U.S. Senators, including even Olympia Snowe, would prefer to see tens of millions of Americans have no health security whatsoever, rather than support a public option — that’s a choice, not a requirement — for just 10 percent of consumers. It’s a sad measure of the moral decline of the Republican Party from the days when at least a few reasonable conservatives walked among them.

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