WASHINGTON – Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minn. joined health care expert Jacob Hacker and Campaign for America’s Future co-director Roger Hickey on a conference call today to explain why a strong public plan is critical to making health care affordable, driving competition and guaranteeing Americans quality affordable health care.
Professor Hacker detailed the reasons why growing blocs of House members refuse to support a health care bill without a public insurance option. Hacker highlighted the “enormous flexibility” of supporters of reform and explained that the “public plan is not a litmus test” but rather a “crucial part of an overall reform package,” giving people the choice they are calling for, controlling costs and driving innovations.
“If anyone has a litmus test, it’s the right. Anything that challenges the hegemony of the private plans is bad,” in their view. But private insurers “got us into this mess” and they should not get to decide the terms of reform, said Hacker.
Hacker added that health insurance cooperatives— a new private option likely to come out of the Senate Finance Committee— are a “political solution to a political problem,” in sharp contrast to a public health insurance option, which is a policy solution to a real-world problem.”
Congressman Grijalva, co-chair of the progressive caucus, emphasized that health insurance cooperatives are “a way to silence a pretty strong drumbeat for a public option in the country.” To hand the same private insurance industry a trillion more dollars “is not worth the votes.”
Congressman Ellison stressed that the Progressive Caucus will not allow the House to pass a bill without a strong public plan. “We’ve got 60 members who will not vote for a plan without a public option. People opposed to the public option are siding with big insurance industry bosses against the American people.”
The speakers agreed that all the bills out of committees and moving to House and Senate votes are strong, providing an affordable choice to Americans without employment-based coverage and health security.
Dr. Hacker’s report details how a strong public health insurance plan is critical to successfully achieving the goals of national health reform—lower costs, higher quality and guaranteed health security for all Americans. The paper evaluates the different proposals for health reform advancing through Congress for their potential to satisfy the president’s goals for health reform and why insurance cooperative are not a substitute for a public plan.