The latest NYTimes/CBS News Poll should warm the hearts of those intent on making the public option component part of our healthcare reform package. After being distracted by the Republican goons of August, whose mission was to distort and destroy healthcare reform, no matter what the plan, the latest poll provides us with some glimpse of how successful they were in derailing a serious reform effort. The NYT/CBS Poll asked a very straightforward and general question: “Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan–something like Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get–that would compete with private insurance plans?” The beauty of this poll question is that it was phrased generally, without reference to a specific bill. The results indicate that, despite what the press wanted to portray as a mounting healthcare reform failure, the respondents to that question overwhelmingly endorsed the public option plan with 65% in favor of the public option–one like medicare–26% opposed and 9% without an opinion. In short, the support of the public option has grown and must be viewed as a plan favored by most Americans. And, with that level of support, derived from a question that wasn’t linked in some devious way to a confusing healthcare plan subtlety, the NYT/CBS Pollsters will apparently use that same question to follow the debate in the coming months of what is shaping up to be a modern political food fight.
The Baucus bill that was in the Senate finance committee emerged without any Republican support, turning Obama’s position of insisting on bipartisan support, into a non-entity: this will be a Democratic bill and we can win the public support option in two ways. First, floor amendments to the Baucus bill will bring up the public option plan, though it is currently unclear whether the Senate will vote their version of the healthcare plan with that component in it. But, this is up to the Democrats and the pressure on conservative Democrats who do not favor the public option plan, will be to face the prospects of not getting a decent bill passed at a time when the Democratic Party controls all three branches of government. Though the planned healthcare bill will not go into force until 2014, a failure to achieve a decent healthcare bill could doom the prospects for Democrats’ re-election bids on any one of a number of legislative failures. Passing a bill in which the public becomes increasingly aware that it favors the for-profit insurance companies, as analysis trickles in over the next few years, could be the single greatest element of destruction for the Democratic Party in the election of 2010. All Democratic Senators are aware of this dilemma and we should continue to remind those conservative Democrats that the NYT/CBS polling data favors a solution with the public option plan as a major component.
The second pathway to insure the public option is through the House, where several bills have already come out of committees that have a public option plan. Nancy Pelosi insists that a healthcare reform bill that lacks the public plan cannot pass the House because of pressure by progressive democrats and union support. By increasing our pressure on Democrats who are wavering on this issue (again, we are unlikely to see any Republican votes in the House, unless we apply pressure and keep the poll numbers pointing in the direction of the public plan as an essential element to healthcare reform), a strongly endorsed healthcare plan coming out of the House with the public option intact, will force acceptance of that component in the House/Senate conference meeting–the Senate will not be able to avoid it. So the margin of victory in the House now becomes an important component of our reform prospects. Now is the time to write to your Senators and House legislators, to keep the pressure and drive the issue into a state of redundant acceptance. I believe that the public option plan is more achievable now than at any other time in the last few months. We may have passed through the dimly lit tunnel of the goons into a brighter light of new hope for decent healthcare reform. The lobbying against the public option is running out of gas and it’s time to energize our legislators and force our news media to talk about the new polling data and explore the ethical failure of our current healthcare system. For the past two months, opponents of healthcare overhaul have outspent those supporting the bill, but that tide has now shifted, with more advertising money spent on support of the legislation, even though we don’t yet have a specific bill to fight over. One can almost predict that the Senate/House conference committee will be the site at which the public option succeeds or fails and, if so, no conference in history will be in the public spotlight more than that one. Energize yourself–the battle for healthcare supremacy is about to begin!
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