The Right Decision
By James Riley
October 1, 2009 - 5:32pm ET
She may be a Republican, but Senator Olympia Snowe’s constituency is also made up of Democrats and Independents. Their combined support for the Senator comes from a belief in her willingness to make decisions based on constituent's demands. They demand a public option.
Voters in Maine overwhelmingly support a public health insurance plan. “Mainers favor this option by a more than two-to-one margin (63 to 27 percent), with independents also showing strong support (62 percent support).” They want their Senator “to do what she thinks is right.” But a majority of Mainers (52 to 34 percent) do not support her proposed “trigger,” which would only come into play years down the road—and only after years of neglect by private insurance companies. Mainers would like to see her take a more proactive position in supporting the public option, as “57 percent believe it is important to pass health care reform this year.” Snowe should take these figures into consideration when calculating her chances for re-election, considering her chances will depend on maintaining the combined support of these voters.
Snowe faces a situation that is reflected in national polls, with a majority of Americans (65 percent) in favor of a public option. Nonetheless, on Tuesday, Sen. Rockefellor’s (D-WV) and Sen. Schumer’s (D-NY) proposed Amendments to the health care reform bill, which would have tacked on their respective versions of a public option, were defeated during a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee. The decisive votes came from three Democratic senators—Sen. Conrad, Sen. Baucus, and Sen. Lincoln.
But if a majority of Americans want a public option, then why isn't it on the table? The bill is being held hostage by private insurance companies who do not want to face competition from a public health insurance plan. This translates into a huge loss for the average American. Sonia Sekhar, of the Center for American Progress, suggests that “annual health care spending… will grow from nearly $17,000 today to over $39,000 by 2019—or from 19 percent of family income to 31 percent.” This means families will not be able to save, pay their bills, buy a home, or avoid the threat of being sucked into poverty by rising premiums and emergency visits.
Voters in Maine, like voters across the country, realize there is more at stake for those with and without coverage then one Senator's re-election. If Snowe and other "moderate" Democratic senators decide to appease insurance instead of their constituents they will have to answer for it.
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