Like many supporters of a public option in any health-insurance reform plan, we were upset when President Barack Obama seemed to signal he might abandon it in order to get his larger reform package through Congress. We firmly believe that a public option—a relatively low-cost, government-run insurance program with which private insurers would have to compete—is vital to holding down costs.
But it’s important, at this juncture, to keep the larger picture in mind. The president’s Republican opponents want nothing more than to see health-care reform—and Obama himself—fail. This is why so many of them are happy to see riled-up constituents broadcasting lies about “socialism,” “death panels” and “pulling the plug on Grandma.”
For one thing, they want to pick up congressional seats in the mid-term elections, and they know Obama’s failure would help their cause. They know, too, that it would be much more difficult for a wounded president to pass meaningful legislation on other crucial issues, such as climate change and immigration reform.
Those of us who support the public option need to let our lawmakers know that we want them to push hard for that. But while we believe that it’s an important part of a health-care reform package, we will ultimately support whatever the Democrats suggest is the best way to begin reforming the system and reining in the insurance companies.
Doing nothing at this time about America’s health-care crisis is not an option. The future of the Obama presidency hangs in the balance.