Since Teddy Roosevelt first called for health care reform, the debate on universal health coverage has been just that -- only debate. John F. Kennedy tried, Harry Truman tried and William Clinton tried and yet nothing major has happened in the health care debate since President Lyndon Johnson passed Medicare in 1965. Former President Harry Truman, who was present to watch the signing, was the first to sign up for this new government program.
President Obama's speech last night, on the ninth day of the ninth month of 2009, was to a joint session of congress with the goal of re-energizing the pursuit of comprehensive health care reform and the continued pledge to pass it before the end of this year. President Obama laid out the following framework:
* "It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance."
* "It will provide insurance to those who don't."
* "And it will lower the cost of health care for our families, our businesses, and our government."
Analysis by a number of political pundits have said today that last night's speech by President Obama was a "game-changer". In one of Obama's stronger statements he said, "I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last."
After Obama's speech, Senior White House advisor David Axelrod unequivocally stated on the Rachel Maddow Show, that Obama "will fight for the public option".
Despite all the vitriol the right has demonstrated against Obama's goal of comprehensive health care over the past two months, Obama continued to reach out across the aisle to Republicans and stated that his door is always open to discuss new ideas about bringing health care to all Americans in an affordable and sustainable fashion. However, he said, "I will not waste my time with those who want to kill the plan."
The suggestion that everyone carry at least some level of basic insurance to maintain a large enough pool of insured and keep costs down so that the entire plan is deficit neutral will only work with a public option plan. Without it, the plan is nothing more than a corporate give-away to the Health Insurance companies. This, along with creating competition and choice, are the biggest arguments as to why a public option must be in any final health care reform bill.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi has shown no signs of budging on her pledge that no bill will pass the house without a public option. The AFL-CIO, with the backing of its 11 million members, have unequivocally stated they will pull their support from any Democrat who tries to defeat the public option. After last night's speech and affirmation by a number of top Obama advisors on various cable news it should be clear that Obama will continue to fight for the public option plan. Lest we forget that President Obama is not part of the legislative branch, the ball in now firmly in the court of the United States Senate. With a dwindling number of Senators like Ben Nelson and Max Baucus remaining on the other side of the line in the sand, liberal and progressive groups no longer have moving targets to focus their efforts on.
Senator Barney Frank, a strong proponent of the public option plan, aptly summed it up on the Rachel Maddow show, "the very weakness of their argument is a testament to the strength of ours".