Congresswoman Chellie Pingree Leads Renewed Effort For Public Option
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has begun circulating a letter among her House colleagues urging the United States Senate to pass a public option for health care reform through a process known as reconciliation. Under reconciliation, only 51 votes are needed to pass legislation in the Senate.
"A public option is essential to health care reform," Pingree said. "We have learned in Maine what happens when massive insurance companies have a lock on health care coverage. Without choice and competition, we face higher prices and end up with insurance companies calling the shots on important health care decisions."
Pingree, who wrote the letter with Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado, is urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to take up a public option using reconciliation, a parliamentary process that is not subject to a filibuster. Pingree and Polis are asking fellow House members to join them in the request.
"This is about leveling the playing field," Pingree said. "It would give consumers more choice and the insurance companies a little competition. Plus, it's what the American public wants."
In their letter to Reid, Polis and Pingree cited a December poll in which the public supports a public option by a 2:1 margin.
Pingree also said a public option will help bring down the deficit by millions of dollars. According to the letter, "The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the public option will save taxpayers anywhere from $25 billion to $110 billion and will save billions more when private insurers compete to bring down premium costs. The stronger the public option, the more money it saves."
"With all the noise in this debate, the need for real reform that benefits the public has been lost," Pingree said. "We need to be sure that families have real choice in selecting their insurer and that quality health care is affordable to all. The public option provides the reform we need."
Full text of the letter is below.
January 27, 2010
The Honorable Harry Reid
Office of the Majority Leader
United States Senate
S-221, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Majority Leader Reid:
As the Senate continues to work on health reform legislation, we strongly urge you to consider including a public option.
Here are the reasons for this request:
1) The public option is overwhelmingly popular.
A December New York Times poll shows that, despite the attacks of recent months, the American public supports the public option 59% to 29%. And a recent Research 2000 poll found 82% of people who supported President Obama in 2008 and Scott Brown for Senate last week also support the public option. Only 32% of this key constituency is in favor of the current Senate bill -- with more saying it "doesn't go far enough" rather than it "goes too far."
Support for health care legislation started to fall as popular provisions like the public option were stripped out and affordability standards were watered down. The American people want us to fight for them and against special interests like the insurance industry, and it is our responsibility to show them that their voices are being heard.
2) The public option will save billions for taxpayers, speaking to the fiscally-responsible sensibilities of our constituents.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the public option will save taxpayers anywhere from $25 billion to $110 billion and will save billions more when private insurers compete to bring down premium costs. The stronger the public option, the more money it saves.
By including the public option, we can simultaneously reduce tax increases and the deficit. This is a common-sense way to temper the frustration of Americans who question whether Congress is spending their money wisely and fighting for the middle class.
3) There is strong support in the Senate for a popular public option.
It is very likely that the public option could have passed the Senate, if brought up under majority-vote "budget reconciliation" rules. While there were valid reasons stated for not using reconciliation before, especially given that some important provisions of health care reform wouldn't qualify under the reconciliation rules, those reasons no longer exist. The public option would clearly qualify as budget-related under reconciliation, and with the majority support it has garnered in the Senate, it should be included in any healthcare reform legislation that moves under reconciliation.
As Democrats forge "the path forward" on health care, we believe that passing the public option through reconciliation should be part of that path. We urge you to favorably consider our request to include a public option in the reconciliation process.
Jared Polis Chellie Pingree
Member of Congress Member of Congress