Super-majority Supports Obama's Health Reform Plan

Sixty-two percent of Americans support President Obama's plan for healthcare reform, according to a new ad from Americans United for Change. Recent polling on which the ad relies also shows that almost three in four believe that healthcare reform should include a choice of private and public options.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 11, President Obama reminded Americans about the need to pass health reform this year. 'We have the most expensive health care system in the world bar none,' he said. 'We spend almost 50 percent more per person on health care than the next most expensive nation – 50 percent more. But here's the thing, Green Bay: We're not any healthier for it; we don't necessarily have better outcomes.'

The President further reiterated his support for including a public option in the final healthcare reform package. 'I also strongly believe that one of the options in the Exchange should be a public insurance option,' Obama stated. 'And the reason is not because we want a government takeover of health care – I've already said if you've got a private plan that works for you, that's great.'

Competition and choices about which kind of insurance consumers have access to is the key reason for including a public option, the President explained. 'We want some competition. If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it'll keep them honest and it'll help keep their prices down.'

According to the Organizing for America Web site, the off-shoot of the Obama campaign, the President favors three basic principles for healthcare reform: * Reduce costs – Rising health care costs are crushing the budgets of governments, businesses, individuals and families, and they must be brought under control * Guarantee choice – Every American must have the freedom to choose their plan and doctor – including the choice of a public insurance option * Ensure quality care for all – All Americans must have quality and affordable health care Two draft proposals produced by Senate and House committees this past week include a public option. Early analysis of the Senate concept, which was drafted in the Senate Health Committee chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D. Mass., showed it would provide a choice of private or public health coverage, an employer mandate, and a guarantee against insurance companies refusing coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Labor welcomed the key concepts in this draft of the reform bill. In a statement last week, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said, 'The strong draft of the Americans Health Choices Act that the Committee made public this week demonstrates their commitment to comprehensive reform and the kind of leadership and energy the country needs to finally win quality, affordable health care for all.'

A draft bill written in the House Health Committee would create a national health 'exchange' that would also include the choice between private and public insurance plans.

“We have waited a long time for this day,” said Edward F. Coyle, executive director of the labor affiliated Alliance for Retired Americans. “Now we need to see health care reform through to the end.”

National healthcare reform advocacy groups are studying the progress of these draft proposals through Congress. Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a national coalition of more than 1,000 groups, including labor unions, small business groups and community organizations in 44 states, supports a reform package similar to President Obama's.

Margarida Jorge, the national field director for HCAN, said that the legislative process is moving swiftly and that her organization is working with key legislators to ensure the final outcome will contain the key principles her organization supports.

'We focus on four key principles – affordability, choice, equity and coverage for all,' Jorge remarked.

Doctors and the Public Option

Dr. Vivek Murthy, president of Doctors for America, representing more than 13,000 pro-reform physicians, told reporters last week that doctors all across the country share similar goals as the President. 'As physicians,' he said, 'we are seeing everyday examples of how the private insurance industry is failing our patients.'

'We know that a robust, well-crafted public plan, a plan that basically gives our patients more access that they need, that provides them with choice over their insurer, that rewards physicians for delivering the kind of care that they want, and also provides quality and promotes prevention and wellness, is the kind of plan that patients and physicians need this year,' Murthy stated.

Doctors have countered well-publicized opposition by the American Medical Association (AMA) to the President's reform principles. They note that the AMA does not represent all doctors. According to a recent article by members of Physicians for a National Healthcare Program, a group of more than 15,000 doctors, 'the AMA represents less than 1/3 of America's physicians and half of those are retired.'

In fact, other national associations of doctors support universal healthcare reform, including the American Medical Student Association (AMSA). Former AMSA organizer Dr. Flavio Casoy recently said in an interview, 'Physicians in training really are on the front lines of the collapse in the health care system.'

Universal healthcare reform that includes a public option is crucial to make sure people without insurance or who have inadequate coverage get the care they need, Casoy added. 'When I go to bed at night I see the dozens of faces of people who died or got sick, people who did not get better because of our broken health care system. These are people who could get better, but they don’t.'

The American Academy of Family Practitioners, the American Academy of Pediatricians, the National Physician's Alliance, the Committee of Interns and Residents and the Doctors Council of SEIU Healthcare, and the Student National Medical Association also support a public health insurance option.

The public option is only controversial because insurance companies and other powerful interests in Washington are standing in the way of progress, said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for HCAN, on a teleconference with reporters this week.

'The real question for the country and for Congress,' Kirsch indicated, 'is whether those interest groups that want to block the President's plan to protect their own financial interests or their political point of view in terms of ideology will prevail or whether what the great majority of Americans want will prevail.'

According to Jorge, HCAN will be bring some 7,000 people to Washington, D.C. June 25, for a massive healthcare reform rally and lobby day action. Hundreds of activists will be visiting with more than 300 members of Congress that day to advocate for these core reform principles. Town hall meetings and local congressional visits are also in the works.

See the Americans United for Change ad: