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Joe's way or the highway

December 14, 2009 - Jim Anderson
A few weeks ago, I criticized Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) for claiming that the idea of a public option in health care reform was added after the 2008 presidential election.

Lieberman, who still threatens to filibuster any health care bill that includes a public option, has accused Democrats of “bait and switch” tactics.

But here is how candidate Obama’s plan — in regard to the “public option” — was summarized in October 2008 by The Lewin Group, a health care and human services policy research and management consulting firm:

“Senator Obama’s plan would also create a ‘National Exchange’ offering a selection of private health insurance options comparable to those now offered to members of Congress and federal workers. The exchange would be open to individuals, the self-employed and small employers. In addition, the Obama proposal would create a new publicly-operated insurance program called the ‘National Plan’ that would be available as an alternative to private coverage in the National Exchange.”

(The Lewin Group’s post-election research of the public option has been widely cited by critics of health care reform. In a much-disputed April 2009 report, the Lewin Group estimated that 131 million people would enroll in the public plan and the number of people with private health insurance would decline by 119 million people.)

My point in bringing up the Lewin Group is simply to note that the concept of a public option was fully recognized during the presidential campaign — Lieberman’s wild accusations aside.

Sen. Lieberman is front-and-center in the health care debate again. He now promises to oppose a possible compromise on the public option. That compromise is an alternative provision that would allow uninsured individuals as young as 55 to purchase Medicare coverage.

Like Sen. Lieberman, I have many concerns about the health care bill. Certainly, I can claim no special knowledge or expertise.

I can only hope, as a citizen and a consumer, that Congress comes up with something that helps the millions who lack coverage in the current system, and that offers some relief from ever-rising insurance costs. The current legislation likely falls well short, but maybe it’s a start.

(Democrats need 60 votes to overcome Republican opposition to the legislation, and have been counting on Lieberman to side with them.)

I do know this. Unlike Sen. Lieberman, I haven’t received $2.4 million in donations from the health sector over the course of my career.

I wonder if that has anything to do with his selective amnesia over the public option, or his determination to help kill any legislation that threatens the status quo for insurance companies.

Strike that. Lieberman apparently has no problem with a mandate that forces consumers to buy private insurance.

A tough compromise that comes with the territory of being a public servant, I suppose.


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