CA SENATORS JOIN RESOLUTION CALLING FOR ALL AMERICANS TO HAVE PUBLIC HEALTHCARE OPTION

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East County News Service



September 17, 2016 (San Diego) – California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are among 27 Democratic Senators introducing a Senate resolution calling for every American to have the choice of a public health insurance option.  A broad coalition including labor and progressive groups are also calling for the public, Medicare-like option that would guarantee healthcare as a right for all Americans.

The European Union, Canada and virtually all other developed western nations already have a healthcare-for-all public option. Hillary Clinton called for a public option on May 9 and reaffirmed this support on August 11. This was echoed by President Obama on July 11, a signal that Democrats are ready to go beyond the Affordable Care Act, which was a compromise measure with Republicans.

Both sides agree that Obamacare was no panacea.  It did bring healthcare coverage to millions who had no coverage before, making healthcare more affordable for low income families. But insurers jacked up premiums on middle and higher income earners, pulling out of some states entirely, thwarting the intent of the law.

The healthcare for all measure, even if it passes the Senate, is likely doomed in the House of Representatives, where Republicans in the majority voted dozens of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Republican party also opposes a public option like Medicare for all Americans. GOP lawmakers have argued that government should get out of the healthcare business and have traditionally sided with insurance companies.  

The GOP has provided no alternative of its own to make healthcare more affordable for consumers, or to address problems that existed before Obamacare, such as insurers dropping and refusing to insure people with preexisting conditions. 

Progressives are seeking to leverage the issue before the November election, hoping for changes in the partisan makeup of Congress.

Groups will engage their 14 million plus members nationwide on a petition in support of the resolution at WeWantAPublicOption.com and put in phone calls to Senate offices in support.

Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder, sees insurance company greed as a motivating factor.  “Aetna’s failed extortion attempt and decision to pull out of 11 states has created new urgency in this moment for making a public option available to every American,” she said.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a member of Democratic leadership, added: “Rather than refighting old political battles and trying to put insurance companies back in charge, Republicans should join Democrats in expanding choice for consumers by supporting a public health insurance option. We need more competition in the insurance markets, not less, and a public option would help reduce costs and provide consumers with more affordable options when it comes to their health insurance.”

After laying out the case for the public option, the new Senate resolution states: “Resolved, that the Senate supports efforts to build on the Affordable Care Act by ensuring that, in addition to the coverage options provided by private insurers, every American has access to a public health insurance option which, when established, will strengthen competition, improve affordability for families by reducing premiums and increasing choices, and save American taxpayers billions of dollars.”

A GBA Strategies poll commissioned by the Progressive Change Institute in January 2015 shows a majority of likely 2016 voters support a public option, 71%-13%, including a majority of Republicans, 62%-22%. Among Hispanic voters, it is popular 64%-23%. Among African American voters, it is popular 86%-6%. Among women voters, it is popular 72%-13%. Among young voters, it is popular 81%-9%.

William Samuel, Government Affairs Director, AFL-CIO, states, “We strongly support this resolution calling for a public health insurance option that will be available to all Americans.  A public plan will change the rules of our healthcare system, lowering costs for working people, employers and government, injecting competition into the health insurance market, and helping keep private insurers honest.”

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a cosponsor of the resolution states: "The Affordable Care Act has made great progress in helping millions of people get access to health insurance. But at a time when 29 million people are still uninsured, and 31 million are underinsured, we must continue to make needed health care reforms so that the American people can have health care as a right, not a privilege. Insurance companies have shown they are more concerned with serving their shareholders than their customers. Every American deserves the choice of a public option in health insurance.”

On July 5, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini threatened to "leave the public exchange business entirely" if the DOJ opposed Aetna’s merger with Humana. Two weeks later, the DOJ rejected this mega-merger as bad for competition.Then, on August 15, Aetna announced it would pull out of 11 state exchanges. Next year, one-third of ACA healthcare exchanges will be served by a single health insurer and more than half -- 55 percent -- may end up having two or fewer to choose from. Seven entire states are projected to have just one carrier in 2017.

The Congressional Budget Office has found that a public health insurance option would save taxpayers $158 billion over 10 years and extend coverage to the nearly 29 million Americans who remain uninsured. Nearly 4 million adults, disproportionately people of color, lack coverage as a result of the decision in 19 states not to expand Medicaid.

In 2010, the PCCC and grassroots allies partnered with Sen. Michael Bennet and others on “The Bennet Letter” calling for passage of the public option through reconciliation -- a process that only requires 51 votes. The letter gained great momentum, and the PCCC aired TV ads showing 51 senators supported the public option.

Polls Show Widespread Support for the Public Option:

A GBA Strategies poll commissioned by the Progressive Change Institute in January 2015 shows a majority of likely 2016 voters support a public option, 71%-13%, including a majority of Republicans, 62%-22%. Among Hispanic voters, it is popular 64%-23%. Among African American voters, it is popular 86%-6%. Among women voters, it is popular 72%-13%. Among young voters, it is popular 81%-9%.