Progressives Draw The Line On Health Care

Isaiah J. Poole

Most people attending the America’s Future Now conference are clear about one thing when it comes to health care: They are not prepared to compromise away the choice of a public health care option in order to get other reforms.

In a straw poll at America’s Future Now! done jointly by Democracy Corps and the Campaign for America’s Future, 63 percent said they agreed with the statement that “including a public option is the only way to hold the insurance companies accountable and force them to bring down costs. I can’t support a health care plan that does not include the choice of a public option.”

Only 24 percent said they “could support a health care plan that does not include a public option as long as it expands affordable coverage to all Americans and prevents insurance companies from denying coverage.”

That should send a clear signal to Capitol Hill that progressive activists will not stand for having the public health insurance option being used as a political bargaining chip. It is a core demand.

There were disturbing signals in the Senate that a deal is being worked out with the Obama administration that a public plan option would be subject to a “trigger” that would only fire if private insurance companies fail to meet some yet-undetermined goals that they would presumably use their clout in Congress to set. Progressive health-care activists have already made it clear that such a bargain is unacceptable, and the grass-top activists at the conference largely agree.

Health care reform was considered one of the top two priorities of the country by 70 percent of participants, with 43 percent considering it a number one priority. Ranking second was alternative energy policy, with 32 percent ranking it in the top two priorities.

Some other key results from the poll:

  • Ninety percent on poll participants said they generally support President Obama and the job he is doing, while 10 percent disapprove.
  • The administration’s most important accomplishment so far has been Congressional passage of a budget framework that allows for energy and health care reforms, 41 percent of participants said.
  • Eighty-one percent would like to see an investigation of Wall Street excesses that contributed to the financial crisis. Such an investigation is authorized in legislation recently signed by President Obama. Another 67 percent would like to see an investigation of Bush administration alleged illegalities with regard to the handling of terrorist subjects, which the Obama administration opposes.
  • On the question of whether progressives should focus on helping President Obama accomplish his legislative goals or whether progressives should be more independent and focus on pushing him to be bolder, 48 percent said they preferred the latter.

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