Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, a health care reform champion who has (along with Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller) led the fight for a robust public option has gathered the signatures of thirty senators who are committed to real reform — even if the insurance companies don’t like it.
The signers are not the only public option backers in the Senate. MSNBC’s Ed Schultz got Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-New Mexico — who did not sign the letter — to commit to vote for the public option in bills and amendments during an interview Thursday night.
But the signers of the letter are the committed stalwarts, and they will be essential players as the battle over health care reform plays out in the Senate. Many are supporters of bolder reform — including a single-payer system. Their message to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and the Obama administration is that the public option is a compromise. They’re not interested in compromising any further.
Here’s what the letter to Reid says:
We have spent the better part of this year fighting for health reform that would provide insurance access and continuity to every American in a fiscally responsible manner. We are concerned that – absent a competitive and continuous public insurance option – health reform legislation will not produce nationwide access and ongoing cost containment. For that reason, we are asking for your leadership on ensuring that the merged health reform bill contains a public insurance option.
As it stands, the health insurance market is dominated by a handful of for-profit health insurers that are exempt from the anti-trust laws that ensure robust competition in other markets across the United States. Without a not-for-profit public insurance alternative that competes with these insurers based on premium rates and quality, insurers will have free rein to increase insurance premiums and drive up the cost of federal subsidies tied to those premiums. This is simply not fiscally sustainable.
We recognize that the two Committees with jurisdiction over health reform – the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee – have taken two very different approaches with respect to this issue. However, a strong public option has resounding support among Senate Democrats – every Democrat on HELP, three quarters of those on Finance, and what we believe is a majority of the caucus.