Long live the public option…

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday in a declarative statement that the final health reform bill will not include a “public option.”

The public option was an important part of the original proposal, and an important part of our advocacy, even though it wasn’t the only important part of health reform–there’s still a lot of good element. It’s still a shame it’s not included–Pelosi and many others had been active warriors for the concept, and our California delegation was united in its active support. Our two Senators, Senator Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, were supportive early on and are current signatories to a little to include it in the final reconciliation package. In the House delegation, it was a major element of both leadership from California, including Speaker Pelosi and key committee chairs, but other caucus leadership and members of the Progressive and Ethnic Caucuses. Even among our seven Blue Dogs from California, five were early supporters of not just health reform but the public option, and even those that were reluctant on health reform didn’t base their qualms on the idea of a public option.

So we in California did our part, but such support for the public option was not uniform across the country, not enough to make it over the hump. Here’s Speaker Pelosi:

Speaker Pelosi deserves credit for being straight with us, and she has the credibility to be so candid. As she said, she’s a longtime single-payer supporter, and was very active in favor of a public option. I believe that if she says it’s not in the cards, then it’s not… and I also agree with her other statements that other elements of the health reform–from an active, negotiating exchange to rate review–help ensure the same goal, to prevent individuals from being left alone at the mercy of the big insurers.

Speaker Pelosi has been instrumental in keeping alive health reform as a whole, and she deserves huge credit for that alone.

The passage of health reform then creates an opportunity to revisit the public option in the future. At the state level, there’s been an public option bill in the California Legislature, one that would be *much* easier to implement if we had the broader framework of this bill: an exchange, better rules on insurers, etc. After all, a public option in today’s marketplace, to survive, would simply have to act like current insurers.

And there may be opportunities at the federal level to revisit the public option… that’s why it is good that Senators Boxer and Feinstein and other Senators have made their support known. We won’t stop fighting for it, even as we continue to work for health reform.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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