Obama Promised 'Public Option' in Winning Vote

Tuesday, 23 Mar 2010 01:32 PM

By Theodore Kettle

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In pressuring the most liberal Democratic congressmen to vote for the health reform bill that passed the House on Sunday, President Obama soothed their misgivings about its lack of a government-run “public option” by assuring them, “This is a foundation.”

The president added that the tens of millions of people newly covered means “it’s a beginning” toward such a public option that would compete with private insurance.

Special: Do You Back Obama's Healthcare Plan? Vote Here Now!

The revelation comes from a long investigative piece by Ceci Connolly in Tuesday’s Washington Post. The key to passage of Obamacare in the House on Sunday, according to Connolly, “was the personal touch – in carefully-tailored appeals” from Obama “in the closing days.”

Telling the story of one of those presidential appeals, she reports that “Some fence-sitters nearly drowned in presidential attention,” and on March 4 “Obama faced a group of disappointed liberals, many of them supporters of a single-payer, government-run system. They had such high hopes that he would stick to his promise to create a public insurance option,” according to Connolly’s account.

“‘This is a foundation,’ he told them. ‘Thirty-one million Americans will be covered under this. It’s a beginning.’” the Post quotes the president telling the lawmakers who favored European-style socialized medicine, among them Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who ultimately switched and voted with the president in favor of the Senate bill.

But some healthcare experts have long viewed the “foundation” or “beginning” that President Obama referred to as the orchestration of a future crisis in hopes it would lead to the panicked establishment of a single-payer system.

Robert Laszewski, president of the Health Policy and Strategy Associates consulting firm, who has decades of experience in health insurance management, complained this month, for example, that “adding 30 million more people to an unsustainable system, expecting it will create an even bigger crisis and thereby force real reform, is tantamount to re-boarding the Titanic in the hopes it will sink faster.”

The Washington Post’s Obama quote, moreover, reflects the widely disseminated video showing him on March 24, 2007, during a Service Employees International Union healthcare forum stating that private, employer-based coverage would be eliminated in steps.

“I don’t think we’re gonna be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately,” candidate Obama said. “There’s gonna be potentially some transition process. I can envision a decade out or 15 years out or 20 years out,” he said.

The president’s reassurances to liberal legislators are also reflective of the thinking of Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., in regard to expanding government’s role in the healthcare system in steps.

“I think if we get a good public option, it could lead to single-payer and that’s the best way to reach single-payer,” Frank was videotaped telling an interviewer on July 27.

The liberal congressman, who chairs the House Banking Committee voted yes on Obamacare on Sunday, like all but two and a half dozen of his fellow House Democrats.

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