Local representatives bring back public option

July 22, 2010 7:28:16 PM PDT
Just when you thought the health care debate was over, the public option is back. Bay Area Representatives Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Pete Stark, D-Fremont, have introduced a bill to add a public option to the health care pools that start up in 2014.

The public option drew a lot of fire from opponents and ultimately Democrats couldn't get it through Congress, but polls late last year showed it was actually more popular than the overall legislation. Now, the question is: could it make a comeback?

This time last summer, the shouting at town hall meetings was fierce and there was a lot of anger at the president's plan to offer a public option to private health insurance.

"Opposition is really strong against government-controlled health care. It's really strong," says Gini David from the Bay Area Patriots group.

In Congress, Democrats got it through the House.

"It's very clear we want a strong public option in the legislation," said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on July 30, 2009.

And they lost it in the Senate.

"If the public option is still in there, the only resort we have is saying no in the end to reporting the bill off the floor," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., on Nov. 23, 2009.

When it went down, Woolsey and the progressive in the House, promised to keep pushing and this week she is introducing a bill to bring it back.

"HR 5808 that's the new robust public option," says Woolsey.

From Washington D.C. Woolsey says her bill if passed will take effect in 2014, when Americans will be required to buy health insurance.

"It would be a government program that fits right into the exchanges," says Woolsey.

Woolsey says it'll offer a government-run low-cost alternative to private insurance companies.

Tea party members who've been vocal in their opposition are outraged, according to the organizer of the Pleasanton tea party rally in April, Bridget Melson.

"And there's going to be public outrage. I guarantee you that there's going to be mass demonstrations," says Melson from San Diego.

Melson describes her tea party members as furious.

But the most recent polls from last year when the public option was still an option, showed overwhelming support. ABC7's political analyst Bruce Cain, Ph.D., in Washington D.C. was asked if this proposal has a chance of passing.

"Probably not, but I don't think it's a bad thing to introduce the bill for another reasons," says Cain.

Strategically, the public option bill makes sense says Cain. Whether it gets through the Senate or not, it'll have an impact.

"The possibility of a public option on the table with a bill ready to go is a threat and that threat could work to keep the insurance companies in line and make sure they don't try and gouge," says Cain.

The public option bill won't make it into committee before the November election. Woolsey hopes to have it on the floor for a vote sometime next year; 128 members of the House have already signed on, but again, the battle would likely be in the Senate.


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