It's nice to hear some people are actually fighting for our interests. I was beginning to wonder if anyone was: The forces in favor of a public hea
October 16, 2009

It's nice to hear some people are actually fighting for our interests. I was beginning to wonder if anyone was:

The forces in favor of a public health insurance option roared back Thursday on Capitol Hill after weeks when their cause looked bleak.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) looked closer than ever to including a robust U.S. government-run insurance program in the House bill — saying recent attempts by the health insurance industry to undercut reform prove insurers can’t be trusted.

And in the Senate, a weekly policy lunch turned into a heated debate when liberals went after the Senate Finance Committee bill and made clear they won’t roll over for legislation that doesn’t include a public option.

Reflecting deep divides within the caucus, the Senate luncheon turned tense, with voices elevated and senators venting. “In today’s lunch, it even involved a little performance theater,” Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said, describing it as an “emotional catharsis.”

In a week when the Senate Finance Committee passed a bill without a public option — raising questions about whether that would prove the public option’s last gasp — progressives in both houses showed they won’t go down without a fight.

And Thursday proved that if President Barack Obama hoped the public option question would fade of its own accord, he probably won’t get that lucky — but will be forced to referee a compromise between liberals and moderates.

But in the House, moderates stand to suffer the most if Pelosi goes ahead with plans to include the most ambitious public option — forcing them into a tough vote that will surely be used by Republican opponents in 2010.

In the House, Pelosi told her rank and file Thursday that the time has come to “freeze the design,” meaning she wants unveil a completed House bill as early as next week.

Pelosi favors a public-option plan supported by liberals that reimburses doctors at rates that are 5 percent higher than Medicare — one of the strongest versions of the public option on the table.

Pelosi used the reports put out this week by the insurance lobby — which said reform would add thousands to family insurance premiums — to show the public needs some defense against the industry.

“Anyone who had any doubts about the need for such an option need only look at the behavior of the health insurance industry this week,” Pelosi said. “If you are going to mandate that people must buy insurance, why would you throw them into the lion’s den of the insurance industry without some leverage with a public option?”

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