What are Boswell's deal-breakers on health care reform?

I was encouraged earlier this year when Congressman Leonard Boswell (IA-03) signed on to Health Care for America Now’s core principles, and his spokesman assured me that Boswell was strongly committed to a public health insurance option. More recently, however, Boswell left himself wiggle room when asked about the public option, so I was eager to hear about his town-hall event in Sigourney on Thursday.

Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers after reading this Radio Iowa report. (continues after the jump)


“We haven’t seen the final (bill) and you know it’s very likely, it’s very possible — I’m not going to say ‘likely’ because I want this to move forward — it’s very possible it could be something I can’t vote for,” Boswell told the crowd in Sigourney. “But we have got several places, miles to go yet and the process is going on. […] We’ve got three drafts and they’ve got to be melded together…and when that’s done, then you ask me a question and I’ll give you your answer.”

I appreciate that Boswell isn’t willing to commit to voting for any old health care bill. Details matter.

That said, his constituents deserve to know more about which provisions must or must not be included in the bill to gain his vote.

Presumably changing the Medicare reimbursement system will continue to be a high priority for him, but I want to know where he stands on other contentious provisions.

If the final bill looks like the deal being worked out in the Senate Finance Committee, with the blessing of the insurance industry and other corporate groups that profit from the status quo, will that be good enough for Boswell?

If the final bill honors the deal Billy Tauzin claims to have with the White House and prohibits the government from bargaining for lower drug prices (see also here), will that be good enough for Boswell?

If I had a vote, my deal-breaker issues would include a strong, national public health insurance plan, modeled on Medicare (including choice of doctor), available to all Americans who wanted to join it, with the ability to bargain for lower drug prices. Anything less than that is not going to solve the current problems in our health care system. Would Boswell accept a fake public option, such as regional co-operatives?

I am seeking clarification from Boswell’s office on what factors will determine his vote on health care reform. If you contact his staff or attend any of his public events this month, please ask him about this as well. You can share what you learn with the Bleeding Heartland community in a diary, comment or confidential e-mail to me (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com).

I should add that I was wrong to criticize Boswell for not scheduling a health care event in the Des Moines area this month. His office announced a town-hall on health care to be held on August 23 from 3 pm to 4 pm at the AIB College of Business Activities Center, 2280 Bell Avenue in Des Moines. RSVP by calling Congressman Boswell’s Des Moines office at 515-282-1909, or emailing boswellrsvp@mail.house.gov. If you attend, please post a diary with your impressions.

One other comment Boswell made in Sigourney is attracting a lot of attention:

“The president (said), ‘I’m not going to kick the can down the road.’ And he said that and I said, ‘Well, that’s something I’m kind of used to from southern Iowa, you know.  I know about kicking the can down the road.’ And he said, ‘No, if it makes me a one-term president, I’m going to, we’re going to take it on because the country is in need of us taking this on.’ I respected that very much.”

Over at MyDD, Charles Lemos is encouraged that Obama “is willing to stake his political future on passing a comprehensive health care reform.”

I can’t share his optimism. If Obama were truly willing to risk being a one-term president, we would not be reading about back-room deals with the insurance lobby and big Pharma.

More Democrats need to draw lines in the sand to give health care reform a chance to succeed.

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