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Posted by on Aug 17, 2009 in Politics, Society | 14 comments

Obama’s Public Option Quandary

John Simmons, left, and David Williams argue during a rally Saturday Aug. 15, 2009 in Atlanta. Several thousand people gathered in downtown Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park to protest health care reform proposed by the president and Congressional Democrats.  (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

John Simmons, left, and David Williams argue during a rally Saturday Aug. 15, 2009 in Atlanta. Several thousand people gathered in downtown Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park to protest health care reform proposed by the president and Congressional Democrats. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Over the last few days we’ve seen stories that the White House is seriously considering eliminating the controversial public option segment of the health care reform plan. This news follows earlier reports that funding for the equally troublesome ‘end of life’ counseling programs would also be pulled from the package, presumably in conference committee once the two houses pass their own proposals.

Senator Conrad (D-ND), a key Democrat on the Finance Committee, has indicated that he would be supportive of the insurance cooperatives option which would replace public option.

But not everyone in the party seems to be on board. Howard Dean has threatened primary challenges against any Democrat who dares to oppose the public option (presumably a threat he did not clear with the White House).

This demonstrates the problem that the Obama White House faces on the issue of health care reform. Most of the current polling seems to suggest that the center and right of the political spectrum are, to say the least, reluctant to proceed with the public option proposal. But at the same time it is clear that for the left this is an core issue and they do not intend to compromise.

Obviously this is not an unusual situation, most of the prior White House’s have faced times when they need to balance between what the majority of the people wanted and what the hard line of their own party demanded. History has shown that it requires a very careful balancing act to resolve this conflict.

The Clinton White House was seen as going too far to appease the left of the party and ended up losing badly in1994. At the same time the Bush 41 White House was seen by the base as having gone too far to the center, resulting in the 1992 split that helped lead to his defeat. In many ways Bush 43 managed to accomplish both, angering the base and the center at the same time.

My guess is that for now the White House will drop the public option in order to get something passed and give them the ability to claim a victory. But that will not stop them from pursuing the more expansive programs in the future, especially if they are able to have reasonable success in the 2010 elections.

Personally I’d like to see them slow down quite a bit. This is a major expansion of government that will involve a double digit portion of the US economy. Why not simply work to get those without coverage helped first, then once we’ve gotten the kinks worked out of that program we can look to whether or not it needs to be expanded.

Regardless of what they do, the coming weeks and months will certainly provide for some entertaining politics.

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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • Patrick,
    A few questions…

    What did the Clinton White House do in that first year that pleased the left but killed the Democrats in Congress?

    When did Bush 43 ever lose the support of the Republican base?

    Explain why this process needs to be “slowed down.” Hasn’t this country debated health care for something like 80 years? Haven’t we known major changes were necessary since the early 1990s? There is already a lot of detailed thinking about ways to reform health care and insurance (and successful examples from across the globe), all we have to do is pick one and go with it.

  • AustinRoth

    OK, that picture speaks volumes. The spin has been it is the old that oppose Obama, but his base of younger people still support him and especially ObamaCare.

    One picture puts that lie to bed.

  • Father_Time

    Bush was a clown. His own people bad mouth him now. A complete failure by any standard. Comparing Bush to President Obama is like comparing apples to old shoe leather. Personally I think that these “blue dogs” will be cleaned out at midterms. They are to close to turning traitor anyway. Let Howard Dean bring on the primary challenges. Disallow any pork for their districts and ignore them till the end of their terms. They are just a small minority within the majority party, enough to make trouble but not enough to do anything. Eliminate the trouble makers with vehement prejudice.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    1994 was a reaction to NAFTA, the unions did not turn out in punishment.

    • Magical said: 1994 was a reaction to NAFTA, the unions did not turn out in punishment.

      Well… there was also that little thing called “Universal Health Care” (or HillaryCare, in some circles).

  • Silhouette

    Oh it’s ON baby!…

  • aarthurb

    Here in Massachusetts we have universal (state mandated) health care for all. Since this new welfare program it went into effect my employer’s rates have gone up greater than 20% per year. This increase is then passed back to all workers in the state. Even the elderly on fixed incomes have seen their office visit co-payments and prescription costs sky-rocket based on poverty level incomes. When congress agrees to use the same health care program as their offering its citizens I’ll be willing to listen. Until then don’t fall for it.

  • Polimom,
    Was I asleep when “Hillarycare” passed?

    • Eh? Of course it didn’t pass, Chris. Are you saying the debates had no effect on the 1994 elections? That the heat generated around the subject wasn’t part of Gingrich’s leverage?

  • Almoderate

    aarthurb, they aren’t doing that now. Perhaps if we demanded that they be forced to ditch their comfy government plans and have to deal with the same private plans we have (and be forced to use whatever plan they offer us), they’ll be more interested in real reform.

    The congressional plan is proof positive that they’re capable of providing a good plan. But that’s THEIR interests. It benefits THEM. The only way we get them to represent our interests is if our interests are their interests. Plain and simple. (I wonder if John McCain would even qualify for private coverage.)

  • CStanley

    Almoderate- the government employees don’t use a ‘public plan’, they have a menu option from a large variety of private insurers. If you want what they have, you should be advocating for reform which will allow consumers to choose from insurers operating anywhere in the US, and for levelling the playing field so that we can each choose our plans individually instead of having to use what our employer decides to offer us.

  • Polimom,
    I wouldn’t say it had no effect, but I’m not going to by into this idea of “liberal overreach” (a classic rightwing meme) without a shred of evidence. I could just as easily say that Democrats didn’t want to vote for their members of Congress because they couldn’t get Hillarycare passed. Perhaps the lesson is that Democrats were punished for “liberal under-reach.”

    • Chris — your comment reminds me that I really really need to finish a post I’ve been working on for far too long, about overreach and mandates.

  • shifty83

    Its funny how broken the health care system was just last year. Now its in perfect shape and no one wants to mess with it…

    The Truth behind the Health Care Fight

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