Despite claims to the contrary, the public option is not quite dead. At least not if Senator Bennet has anything to say about it.
In a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), along with Senators Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) clearly and concisely states the case for avoiding a filibuster by passing the public option through the process of reconciliation.
“We respectfully ask that you bring for a vote before the full Senate a public health insurance option under budget reconciliation rules. There are four fundamental reasons why we support this approach – its potential for billions of dollars in cost savings; the growing need to increase competition and lower costs for the consumer; the history of using reconciliation for significant pieces of health care legislation; and the continued public support for a public option.”
Citing the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report that the Senate health reform bill would reduce the deficit by over $130 billion in the first then years and up to $1 trillion in the first 20 years, and estimated that various public option proposals in the House would save at least $25 billion, the Senators state that a strong public option is “one of the best, most fiscally responsible ways to reform our health insurance system.”
“A strong public option would create better competition in our health insurance markets. Many Americans have no or little real choice of health insurance provider. Far too often, it’s ‘take it or leave it’ for families and small businesses. This lack of competition drives up costs and leaves private health insurance companies with little incentive to provide quality customer service.”
Democratic Senators who are loathe to consider using reconciliation take note: also included in the letter are examples of Senate precedent for using reconciliation to enact other important policies — The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare Advantage, and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA). Reconciliation is not a dirty word.
Allowing the public option back into the debate through reconciliation would allow passage with a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate.
A December 2009 CBS News/ New York Times poll indicated that 59 percent of Americans support the public option.
You can read the full text of the letter HERE.
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