New public option health insurance bill introduced in the House

House Progressive Caucus members banded together today to introduce HR5808, a new version of a Public Option for universal health insurance. Led by Progressive Caucus co-chair Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), my own Pete Stark (D-CA) and member of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), the bill was presented with 128 co-sponsors including all three chairs of the committees of jurisdiction, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor along with an accompanying Congressional Budget Office analysis showing an expected deficit reduction of $68 billion between 2020 and the start date in 2014.

From the press release:

Rep. Jan Schakowsky: “As one of 18 members of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, I am charged with looking for ways to reduce the federal deficits. A public option would trim federal spending by $68 billion from 2014 to 2020, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. And by providing more choice, a public option would also make health care better and more affordable.”

Rep. Pete Stark, Chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee: “Today, Consumers Union reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield plans [have] amassed billions in surpluses as they raised rates for millions of Americans. This is a good example of why we need a public option – to create an insurance plan that competes based on delivering quality, efficient care, not on delivering profits to shareholders. The result is more competition, better coverage, and lower premiums for millions of Americans.”

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and President of Americans for Democratic Action: “As the deficit continues to grow, so does the need for a program that can save billions of dollars and improve health care while doing it. The robust public option offers lower-cost competition to private insurance companies. This will make insurance more affordable for those who do not have it and keep insurance affordable for those who do.”

The bill is very similar to the original House Public Option proposal before it was gutted (ThinkProgress has a comparison). It instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a public option among the insurance exchanges to be set up when the current health insurance reform act goes into effect. Both employers and individuals would be allowed to join, and premiums are expected to be 5 – 7% less than comparable private options. The program will pay providers at Medicare rates +5% for three years, with protection in that time from any Medicare cuts.

The text of the bill is here, and the letter from CBO is here.

Reaction from the various factions who battled earlier over this year’s health insurance reform bill flowed along predictable lines.

LA Times writer Noam Levy, a consistent critic of health insurance reform, falsely stated that an earlier Public Option attempt was “roundly rejected” when in fact it was passed in the House and only removed from the Senate version late in the process because of objections by a couple of needed hold-out conservative votes. Levy mocks the new bill as a lame attempt at deficit reduction when that is a benefit but clearly not the primary intent, suggests that it is the first step towards a very scary single-payer system dreaded by insurers, and claims it is opposed by House Democratic leadership when the reality is that it would not have come out with so many sponsors if Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not supportive.

Single-minded single-payer PNHP came out in opposition as well, because the bill isn’t single payer and anything that isn’t single payer is Bad BAD BAD:

We can’t afford to waste political capital on a legislative amendment that merely appeases those who lost the public option debate, but does nothing to build the solid financial infrastructure that we need. Let’s spend all of our political capital on real reform: a single payer national health program….

Never mind that single-payer proponents couldn’t muster enough backers in the recent debate to justify bringing a proposal to the floor of the House for a trial vote, even though Speaker Pelosi made the opportunity available. These PNHP folks would pitch a fit at the idea of taking a first step on a neccessary if arduous journey of a thousand miles, arguing that the right thing to do is to stay put and start work on a teleportation machine.

Over at Firedoglake the Pissing Puppies Chorus howled their derision of the proposal because Jane Hamsher hates Lynn Woolsey and Pete Stark for reasons she just made up, or something. The wheels came off the track there a long time ago, and every post now is just another awful train wreck.

Media Matters has a dissection of how FOX “News” came equally unglued, with their reporters propagandists erupting in a spew of cobbled-together nonsensical invective that would make Sarah Palin proud. FOX radio babbler Mike Gallagher called it “nationalized health care single payer socialized medicine,” as if we should be so lucky.

For myself, I think this is a fine effort to do something that is much needed and has at least a chance of passage, although it won’t make it through House committees and come to the floor for a vote until after the next Congress is seated. I also think this is a good time to bring it up for debate, so the public that greatly favors a Public Option can ask candidates about it and make an informed voting decision based on their stance. Progressives would be well-advised to push their candidates for support, and press opponents into making their position clear.

The Left isn’t very good at using wedge issues to sway elections. Here’s one we can use, now, and the opportunity should not be wasted.


6 responses to “New public option health insurance bill introduced in the House

  1. I’M PROUD OF YOU LABOR!. Keep standing up. The lives and health of all the American people and the World are in serious jeopardy.

    Further, unemployment healthcare benefits are critically needed. But they should be provided through the Medicare program at cost, less the 65% government premium subsidy provided now to private for profit health insurance.

    Congress should stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on private for profit health insurance subsidies. Subsidies that cost the taxpayer 10x as much or more than Medicare does. Private for profit health insurance plans cost more. But provide dangerous and poorer quality patient care.

    It’s over. Tell congress to get the healthcare Merchants of death and injury out of the American peoples lives for good. 2010 is about THE PUBLIC OPTION!

    And that CORRUPT! UNDEMOCRATIC! filibuster must GO! NOW!

    Alan Grayson Honors The Dead

    Alan Grayson on Healthcare

    Ron Sparks HealthCareReform

    John Garamendi – The Public Option

    I want to commend all of you for working so hard and being so strong at helping the whitehouse and congress begin to address our U.S. and Global healthcare crisis. You have been AWESOME! my fellow Americans and peoples of the World. America and the World is better and safer for it. My greatest pride is the knowledge that I am one of you. And that you really get it. You really understand the importance of it all.

    There are some potentially very good things in the healthcare legislation. Especially with the reconciliation fix’s. The Democrats, Bernie Sanders and the Whitehouse did a GREAT! job of fighting to produce the best healthcare legislation that they could. They have earned all our strong support. And we should give it to them.

    But it was your relentless pressure and hard work that made the difference. Whatever good comes from this healthcare legislation, America and the peoples of the World will have each of you to thank. You were smart, creative, courageous and relentless. You fought together for the best legislation possible. And when you had to, you fought alone. No matter who stumbled and fell you continued to push and forge ahead. Fighting for the lives and health of the American people and the World. YOU SHOULD BE PROUD OF YOUR-SELVES 🙂

    It may come to pass that future generations will look back on us and say that we were ALL Americas Greatest Generations. And that healthcare reform was our finest hour. You should be proud of our leaders President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and the many other Democratic and independent fighters for the people in congress. They proved them-self worthy of the leadership of a GREAT! PEOPLE.

    But we are not done yet. This was just the beginning of healthcare reform, not the end. WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES, ARE NOT! divided on healthcare legislation. The vast majority of you have been consistently crystal clear that this legislation does not go far enough. You want a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE!! available to everyone on day one. And you want it NOW!


    WE THE PEOPLE have been crystal clear that we want an end to dependence on for-profit healthcare and the for-profit proxies called private for non-profit healthcare. The American people want the CHOICE! of a strong Government-run Public Option to replace their need or dependence on healthcare providers whose primary motivation is profit. Rather than providing the highest quality, easiest accessible and most affordable medically necessary healthcare possible. This is what the rest of the developed World has. And the American people want it too. They want healthcare ASSURANCE! Not, for-profit health insurance. And they want it NOW!

    Now is the time to continue the push for a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone that wants it on day one. Rationally it’s clear what we have to do to get this done. SUPPORT THE DEMOCRATS that supported you with a Public Option choice, and REMOVE as many republicans as you can. Not one republican in congress was willing to step across the isle to support a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE!! available to everyone on day one. NOT ONE! Let no candidate prevail this November that does not support a Strong Government-run Public Option.

    47,000 AMERICANS die each year from lack of healthcare. 120,000 die from treatable illness that don’t die in other developed countries. Hundreds of thousands of you are dieing from medical accidents in a rush to profit. And Millions of you are injured. Millions more are driven into bankruptcy. All for the privilege of paying two to three times as much as any other people in the developed world for healthcare. HOGWASH!

    Additionally, tens of thousands of you and your children were killed and millions sickened and injured from a terror attack with H1N1 (swine flu). Released on the American people and the World by the for-profit healthcare industry. All in an attempt to panic and frighten you into accepting the oxymoronic criminal enterprise of private for-profit healthcare (The most costly, deadly, dangerous, and disgraceful product sold in America). H1N1 is still sickening people and killing them. Especially children, the young and the middle aged. And there will be a third wave. These are the terrorist you need to worry about the most. Even the so-called international terrorist would not do something so INSANE! But greed driven medical profiteers would and did.

    Apparently as far as republicans in GOVERNMENT are concerned, YOU! my fellow Americans – CAN JUST DROP DEAD! Including their own family members. Fools!… Hundreds of thousands of you, and possibly millions of you will die from the long-term effects of your infection and poisoning with H1N1.

    So my fellow Human Beings. Rest-up, Take good care of the basics (Balanced nutrition, hydration, exercise, rest and POSITIVE emotional supports). Then wade back into the FIGHT! for a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one. Drug re-importation, Abolishment or strong restrictions on patents for biologic and prescription drugs. And government controlled and negotiated drug and medical cost. You must take back control of your healthcare system from the Medical Industrial Complex. You MUST do it NOW! This is a matter of National and Global security. There can be NO MORE EXCUSES.

    God Bless You My Fellow Human Beings. I’m glad to know of you. And proud to be one of you.

    See you on the battle field.


    jacksmith – WorkingClass 🙂

  2. grahamfirchlis

    Alrighty then, Jack. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  3. Jack,

    I agree with a ton of what you said…but you lost me a little with the swine flu being a government terror plot.

    The central problem with our government is that our political system is completely dominated by corporate interests. Democrat or Republican, most bow down to the almighty corporate donation.

    If you’re interested in reading any of my writings on this topic, check out my blog at

    • grahamfirchlis

      Nice catch, Zack. I must admit my eyes glazed over much farther upstream, something about the persistent gratuitous use of ALLCAPS does that to me.

      To be perfectly clear: H1N1 is, as anyone remotely familiar with influenza knows, a naturally occurring mutation and not the product of a terror attack by some secret cabal of for-profit health care suppliers.

      I’m not sure what the connection is between belief in bizzare unfounded conspiracy theories and the excessive use of CAPITAL LETTERS, but there surely is one. Worth a thought piece, maybe.

  4. Graham,

    Just out of curiosity, do you think this bill has even the smallest chance of making it through the Senate?

    • grahamfirchlis

      This won’t come up in the House until after the election, so what happens depends on those results.

      If the Democrats keep both chambers, as I expect they will, and reduce the debate cloture vote requirement to something palatable like 55, I think it has a better than 50/50 chance.

      If the Republicans take either chamber, then it is of course DOA in the next Congress. In that event there will be a push by the sponsors to move it this term, which Pelosi will support. There are enough votes now to get it through the House in such a circumstance, but not in the Senate where a Republican filibuster will sink it surely.

      The only hope this session would be to tie it to a must-pass budget resolution, thus it would need only 50+1 votes under reconciliation rules, but that us also unlikely to happen. (It may still be possible to pass it as a stand-alone under reconciliation, but I don’t think so; that provision, used for the larger health insurance bill, would likely be interpreted by the Senate parliamentarian as a one-shot deal no longer operative.)

      Regardless, the only way these things ever get passed is to keep bringing them up, with strong support. Kudos are due to the House members who have done so.

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