Progressive House Democrats won't settle for health care reform without public option

A few days ago Chris Bowers reported welcome news from the progressive wing of the Democratic delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives. He posted a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus:

Dear Madam Speaker and Majority Leader,

Regarding the upcoming health care reform debate, we believe it is important for you to know that virtually the entire 77-Member Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) prefers a single-payer approach to healthcare reform.  Therefore, it will come as no surprise as you work to craft comprehensive health care reform legislation, that we urge the inclusion of a public plan option, at a minimum, in the final legislation.  We have polled CPC Members and a strong majority will not support legislation that does not include a public plan option that is supported on a level playing field with private health insurance plans.

We look forward to working with you to ensure inclusion of a public plan option and the successful passage of healthcare legislation that will provide a choice of  quality healthcare for all Americans

Sincerely,

Lynn Woolsey, Co-Chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus

Raul Grijalva, Co-Chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus

Many arguments lie ahead regarding what kind of public option would be acceptable as a compromise. Like most members of the Progressive Caucus, I would prefer an option for Americans to buy into an existing government-run program such as Medicare. Presumably corporate Democrats will be pushing for no public option or at best for allowing Americans to buy into the federal employees' health insurance plan, which is provided by various private insurers.

I am glad to see progressive leaders warn that they will not support a Massachusetts-style health care reform, with a mandate for individuals to purchase private health insurance. There must be a public option.

Congressman Dave Loebsack is the only Iowan in the House Progressive Caucus and the only Iowan among the co-sponsors of HR 676, the single-payer health care bill. I am seeking comment from his office about whether he would reject any health care reform bill that does not include a public option.

Although Congressman Bruce Braley is not a co-sponsor of HR 676, I would think that fighting for a strong public option on health insurance would be a natural position for his Populist Caucus to take. I will seek comment from his office on this matter and write a follow-up post later this week.

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