Return of the Public Option


Republicans sat on reinstating unemployment benefits to the consternation of millions of Americans on the presumption the $32 billion expenditure would only add to the nation’s bloated deficit. But Thursday, House Democrats, led by the Bay Area’s Reps. Lynn Woolsey (CA-6) and Pete Stark (CA-13), are flipping that argument on its head to gain approval of a popular Progressive provision left out of the historic health care reform bill passed last March.

Stark, along with Woolsey, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and over 128 co-sponsors, want to bring the public option back to the table. The public option would allow Americans who do not receive health insurance from their employer to purchase benefits from the federal government starting in 2014.

The bill comes on the same day the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the public option would save $68 billion from 2014-2020 and typically cost 5-7 percent less than insurance purchased from exchanges. The cost savings may put conservative deficit-hawks on the defensive. Many Republicans were vehemently against extending unemployment insurance because of its costs. The rigid fiscal stance by Republicans in previous debate will now be challenged by Woolsey, who wrote in The Hill last week, the “robust” public option will keep insurance rates low through increased competition.

“Progressives argued at that time that the public option is the best way, short of a single-payer system, to make healthcare available and affordable to those who don’t have it and keep it affordable for those who do,” said Woolsey, “That argument still rings true, but in this time of rising concern about deficits, the robust public option offers other compelling advantages.”

Stark, who also chairs the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, says insurance companies are catering to profits rather than consumers and pointed to a recent report showing Blue Cross Blue Shield is awash in billion dollar reserves while hiking premiums into the double-digits. In February, legislators in Sacramento grilled executives from Anthem Blue Cross for attempting raise rates up to 39 percent.

“Today, Consumers Union reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield plans amassed billions in surpluses as they raised rates for millions of Americans,” said Stark. “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.”

At the end of last year, as the health care debated raged, Stark admitted in August many of his constituents would have rather he move even further left and back the single-payer plan. Stark, though, said in Alameda he did not feel the country is comfortable moving too quickly on public policy. “The American public doesn’t make these kind of radical changes rapidly,” he said then, but the political winds may be better now, although there may still be a dearth of will in Washington for those willing to re-fight the battles of health care reform so quickly. Woolsey told the Washington Post she can wait even as far as next year saying, “This will be there for the next Congress.”


Categories: health care, insurance, Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark

30 replies

  1. These Communists just never let up, they are hell bent on driving this nation into Third World status. SCREW YOU PETE STARK! You lousy bastard.


  2. Manuel, the Public Option means that you might end up in front of a Death Panel.


  3. I never understood the public option. WHY would anyone want to buy something from the government? Obviously the lobotomy they had lead them to this stupid idea.

    Old Fortney sure is stepping it up this election season.

    For the record…I pay for my own health insurance, even though I make under $50k.


  4. As someone who used to go to those lost mail auctions in San Francsico (now they only hold them in Atlanta) and bought everything from tires to musical instruments to electronics, you buy from the government because, not being business people, they will often sell to you at below market prices.


  5. And why only Atlanta? A “lost mail auction” doesn't make a good case.

    And you're fine with “below market value” health care? Call me paranoid but, I'll take a can of dented peas, even a second hand (well, I'd be picky on second hand items, and before you go there, I grew up in a Thrift Store)…but I wouldn't go near government health care.

    Or the cheese, no government cheese.


  6. Oh yeah, all these asshats who are in favor of the “public option” why don't you see these same jackasses at Highland Hospital? Did Deborah Stark give birth to Fortney's seedlings at Highland? Why NOT????


  7. Don't let him fool you, “Manuel” doesn't need to pay for his health care insurance because he's still covered by his parent's plan.


  8. I'll see Pete Stark in Hell before I allow some bastard to put me in front of a Death Panel. How come the asshat above hasn't answered the question; “Did Deborah Stark hatch Fortney's seedlings at Highland Hospital? Why or why not?”


  9. Manuel:

    Most of the hypocritical morons on here won't answer questions like that. I've asked several like minded ones, like, who is the Anonymous who knows things about me that only I would know…I ever will donate to their candidate of choices campaign, but as it would be, they are just asshats, safe behind a keyboard vomiting the same boring talking points with very little positive proof that their wet dream theories even work.

    Stark wants a public option, not for himself or kids, they have better…but for his voter base, who even then probably don't need or want it…but so they can feel good about being better then those who aren't registered to even vote. Its all feel good bullshit they can talk about with their like minded dunderhead friends.


  10. It would be worthwhile to have a real conversation about health care in the United States, and what are the best policies to pursue. Unfortunately, conservatives such as the ones on this comment thread appear unwilling to have a good faith discussion.

    Look at the language they use above: “SCREW YOU…lousy bastard…lobotomy…stupid…asshats…jackasses…vomiting…bullshit…dunderhead….”; it goes on and on. With this bottom-of-the-barrel rhetoric often comes an argumentative style which substitutes slurs for facts.

    An example: A commenter to another story on this site called Bill Quirk “ignorant” for saying that Castro Valley would be part of a “solid Democratic seat (in the Legislature). This commenter claimed “Castro Valley isn't a strong Democratic voter (sp)”. When I pointed out that, in fact, voter registration in C.V. shows an approximate 17% registration advantage for the Democratic Party, the commenter attacked me for “geekishly looking up statics (sp).”, and completely failed to reflect on the fact that he insulted a Hayward City Councilmember, and used incorrect information to justify his insult. This reflects extremely bad faith.

    In the real world, which these people seem extremely determined to ignore, there has been DECADES of policies passed by the government which favor big business interests. This has not brought us prosperity. Instead, it has resulted in an extremely unstable economy, an economy where not enough people have disposable incomes to provide wide support to businesses, particularly small businesses.

    In the case of health care, insurers, pharmaceutical companies and other big players in the industry have been left to do almost anything they have wanted, due to deregulatory policies and lax regulatory agencies. The cost of health care- to our businesses, to society- is a significant drag on our economy, chiefly because the overhead to our system is much haigher that it is for all other industrial nations.

    The reforms passed earlier this year are a start, not a finish, to what is needed. I'm glad that many in Congress are working to see that recent decades of destructive policy implementations are changed.


  11. Doug Jones, you are incapable of holding an intelligent discussion.
    Frist of all there is no such thing as a “stable” economy. We have just experienced the closest thing to one with the 26 year economic expansion brought by Ronald Reagan. The United States is THE most prosperous nation in the world. NO ARGUEMENT! If you and other parasites are unable to live in a modern society then that is YOUR problem not mine, not my neighbor's and CERTAINLY not the GOVERNMENT.

    We have THE BEST health care system in the World. NO ARGUEMENT! You and your ilk have a warped sense of “Freedom” and “Equality”. For your types “freedom” means a society of “free things” while “equality” means taking from others who work and giving to those who refuse to work.


  12. Doug Jones makes a long, thoughtful argument, whether you agree with it or not and the next comment is immediately “Doug Jones, you are incapable of holding an intelligent discussion.”

    Intelligent now means having a stupid debate based on non-sensical statements? If this guy Manuel wants to bring people to his point of view then he's doing the worst job possible. He sounds like a rube like non other I've ever encountered living in the Bay Area. Seriously, do you read what you write?


  13. “It would be worthwhile to have a real conversation about health care in the United States…”

    Why? It's like abortion…or any other law on the books…stop beating a dead horse…ObamaCare has passed.

    Get over it.

    That is, unless you REALLY want a (proven failed) progressive, socialist system take over…which, I'm sure would grow your excitement meter.


  14. Oh wait…lets keep the discussion going actually since a majority of American's…key word being legal citizens…do not want it.

    Doug Jones, curious what you think about politicians voting against their constituents concerns & desires? Does Congress know whats best for you? Please keep it short and simple and to the point, if possible.


  15. Again, a conservative commenter uses factually incorrect info to support their views. The most recent rankings from the World Health Organization found the United States 37th among nations in the quality of its health care.

    In addition, the U.S. spends as a percentage of GDP much more than any other nation, and our spending per capita is nearly twice as much as any other country, and more than twice as almost all others, including nations outranking them in the WHO study.

    Also, the economy was much healthier under Clinton than it was under any recent Republican President, Reagan included. During Reagan's first term, we had persistent unemployment at the rate we are now experiencing. Of course, in 1982 we had a Democratic Congress which worked with Reagan to reduce the unemployment rate.

    Now, we have a Republican minority which takes its cues from an increasingly unhinged base, a minority which seems determined to prevent passage of policies which would improve the economy. When you state publicly that unemployment insurance destroys a person's incentive to find work in an economic climate where there are five job seekers for every job avaliable, you are dangerously detached from reality.

    It is fascinating to hear our conservative say “there is no such thing as a 'stable' economy.” I thought we were the most prosperous nation in the world; wouldn't we gain a stable economy from that level of prosperity? It does fit in with the “Lord Of The Flies” point of view of many conservatives, though.


  16. Throughout the last year, conservatives screamed “death panels!” and other paranoid lies. Many people base their opposition not on the reforms that were passed, but the delusions they believe or have heard about. Goodness gracious, just read some of the ridiculousness they brought to Rep. Stark's recent Town Halls in the Citizen story which follows. Clearly, the Golden Rule has escaped the memories of many conservatives. How can they demand more respectful treatment from their Congressman when their roads, in both behavior and facts, travel so low?

    That being said, there is this fact:

    The June 2010 Kaiser Health Care Tracking poll found that public favorability toward the bill has risen over the last month to 48 percent favorable and 41 percent unfavorable, which is up from 41 percent favorable and 44 percent unfavorable in May. This result is consistent with trends found in a number of other public polls, which show the public's approval of reform rising.

    Health care has morally and financially crippled our nation in recent years. It needed to be dealt with, and the U.S. is a representative democracy. Speaking of our representative, it's clear that Stark represented his constituents' wishes by voting for a moderate reform package which leaves the private health care system, while more regulated, intact.

    Nicholas, in the last two elections, the citizens voted in Democrats in droves. Almost all these Democrats, Obama included, campaigned on a promise to pass health care reform similar to the reforms which have now passed.


  17. Reading some of these posts are like death panels.

    Doug, your last comment does not represent the entire country. But I assume you don't care, because you dont see outside this district?


  18. Hey Vierra, do you ever get out of the San Leandro/Hayward/Castro Valley area?

    You sound like every other babooze around here. Why is Doug Jones' comment so “thoughtful”? Because he advocates a government run system? Because he wants freebies for everyone?

    Doug Jones plays the same old tune; “boo hoo hoo, the poor are being taken advantage of, we don't have a stable economy, other countries are so much better” The same crap comes out of his mouth. Have you paid attention to what Doug Jones writes? A couple weeks ago he listed what he considers “the basics of a dignified existence”; (This is the same Doug Jones who thinks that a janitor is just as valuable to society as a business owner and should be paid the same.) His comments read like a playbook for the lazy; access to adequate information, free healthcare, free and nutrious food, free housing”. It doesn't matter the reality of the situation, because Doug Jones will come back with the same cry baby lines; “oh not EVERYONE has that” Well TOO DAMN BAD! This nation has the best healthcare, the best schools, the best standard of living, and if some people are too stupid, too lazy, too ignorant to get out and take advantage of it, if all they want out of life is to freeload then that's their problem.

    To hear Doug Jones, you'd think that millions were dying in the streets, that America was like Bombay, Rio or South Africa. Healthcare IS NOT crippling America. That is as stupid a statement as I've ever heard. Bring up deductibles, co-pays and catastrophic only insurace plans and all the Doug Jones' of the world will cry like little babies; “well what if you don't have the deductible?' That's they're problem!

    Yes, DOUG you babooze we have the most prosperous nation in the world. BUT, there is NO SUCH THING as “stable” economy under your definition. You're not happy unless everyone is freeloading off of the government. You mouth off the same communist lines similar to; “no woman should have one mink coat until all women have mink coats” You are so detached from reality it's sickening to even think that people like you vote. I love to tell you this Doug but people HAVE TO PREPARE AND TAKE CARE OF THEIR OWN LIVES!


  19. The prescription for health care reform provided by the previous commenter- “Bring up deductibles, co-pays and catastrophic only insurace plans (sp)”- is exactly what got us into the mess we are in, with health care costs accelerating at double or more the pace of inflation over the last decade or two. It's an extraordinarily flawed set of proposals which have already failed to control costs or provide health care for tens of millions of Americans.

    Again, the reforms just passed leave the private health insurance system completely intact; these businesses will merely become better regulated in the future. The reforms will not create a fully “government run system.” That straw man sure does look beautiful in flames, though.

    There are many differences between me and this commenter. Among them is that if he were to become ill with a disease which is expensive to treat and the care costs more than his insurance cap, I would want him to continue to recieve treatment, and would be fine if it were paid for with a small portion of my taxes. It appears that he would prefer that citizens in this circumstance should die. I'm not being flippant; it really does appear that is his position. I disagree.


  20. Jones you are a fool. Deductibles, co-pays have failed to provide health care for millions of Americans??? Where do get this crap? Oh yeah, all you want is for millions to freeload on the health system. Hey Doug, it's called RESPONSIBILITY! People have to get out there and take care of their own lives.

    A “better regulated” business? Do you work on the staff of Stark or Fidel??? There never has been and never will be a “better regulated business” because people like you will drive them all into bankruptcy.

    Oh, you thoughtfull jackass. If someone got sick you'd want them to continue to receive treatment through a small portion of your taxes. THEY ALREADY DO YOU FOOL! It's called Highland Hospital. That's the real “public option” It and Fairmont have been around for quite some time you laughable nutcase. Your “charity” begins and ends at your nose, it doesn't extend into others pockets.


  21. I'd like to borrow a line from Doug Jones's hero, Fortney Stark:

    “You're making a lot of stupid statements…have you ever studied political science? History? Economics? Do you have a doctorite in political science? A masters degree? How many classes did you take?”

    It's the same old, boring talking points that aren't going to change anyones mind, on here. A vast majority of Americans did not want government healthcare. Never mind this district, the nation. End of story.


  22. Businesses which were unregulated or poorly regulated are the ones which created unsound financial products and mixed their investment and banking monies. This is the chief cause of our current public budget crisis. Any economic system left to pursue itself to its logical conclusion, whether capitalism or other philosophies, is unsound.

    Given your extremely polarizing statements about Highland Hospital, it seems to me that you do not wish to contribute to its maintenance with your tax money. If the majority of Congress, the State Legislature and County Board of Supervisors represented that view, the outcome would be that people who became unable to pay for their medical care would be left to die and stay in misery. I don't see any other reasonable interpretation of your views, unless it is that you agree that the public should save their lives and ease their pain, as long as you can still bitch like hell about it.


  23. Unregulated businesses? Name ONE, ONE business that is unregulated. You're a fool. The chief cause of any public budget crisis is….SPENDING!!! But, to you “Doug” you think all government spending is good, because the Tooth Fairy waves her wand and money appears.

    Hey, “Doug” what's so polarizing about Highland Hospital? You nut case, that's a public option and it always has been. In fact the idiots here continue to increase funding to it and guess what?? The place is always in the red. Yeah, “Doug” the government does such a wonderful job. You want everyone in America to have to go to government run hospitals. To your disgusting mind that would be not only wonderful but; “Equal”.


  24. Cut to the chase. Should our tax money help Alameda County Medical Center continue to provide care for those who need it?

    Keep in mind that, with more people able to purchase privite healthcare insurance in the next few years due to the reforms which Congress passed this year, the burden on the public healthcare system is certain to change, and likely to ease.


  25. There was a letter to the Daily Review today by a woman who praised Highland Hospital. So Doug, you cut to the chase; should Pete Stark and his family have used Highland Hospital?

    Doug, how are “more people going to be able to purchase private health insurance due to the ObamaCare?” and why weren't they buying it to begin with?

    Just admit it, Doug, you want a government run health system where there's lousy care for all, but as long as it's “free” you're happy. Of course the “first among equals; Stark, Obama, Pelosi”, they deserve a little better care than the rest of the population.


  26. No answer to my question, but more straw men set afire by “Manuel”. Well-regulated private health insurance is fine with me; they should be prevented from the abusive business practices they have committed in recent years, which has often led to substandard care, or the complete denial of care.

    The reforms will provide subsidies which will assist 32 million citizens who currently do not carry health care insurance. Another reform will prevent insurance companies from banning purchasers due to “pre-existing conditions”, many of which were highly specious, such as acne. For many in the first category, they had not purchased health insurance because it was unaffordable, or they made the choice to do so because they felt they were healthy, or a combination of the two.

    By the way, facts are inconvenient things to “Manuel” and Nicholas' arguments:

    Kaiser Health Tracking Poll — July 2010

    The July Health Tracking Poll indicates overall public support for the health reform law is steady from June, while unfavorable views of the law have trended downward. Half the public (50%) now expresses a favorable view of the law, while 35 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion (down from 41% in June).

    The poll also took a closer look at the views of seniors since they are often assumed to have a uniform view about issues. Below are some of the poll’s key findings about seniors’ views:

    While seniors’ views of the new law are more negative than those of their younger counterparts, they remain roughly split about the law with 46 percent of seniors holding an unfavorable view of the law and 38 percent holding a favorable one. While 35 percent of seniors think they will be worse off under reform, a greater share (57%) say they will be better off (20%) or it will make no difference (37%).

    Seniors’ awareness about the specific provisions of the health reform law that affect Medicare is mixed. For example, about half are aware that the new law will result in premium increases for some higher income Medicare beneficiaries (52%) and gradually close Medicare’s “doughnut hole” (50%). However, just a third (33% ) know the law will eliminate Medicare’s co-pays and deductibles for some preventive services.

    On the other hand, large shares of seniors mistakenly believe the law includes provisions that cut some previously universal Medicare benefits and creates “death panels.” Half of seniors (50%) say the law will cut benefits that were previously provided to all people on Medicare, and more than a third (36%) incorrectly believe the law will “allow a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare.”

    Despite the fact that Medicare’s actuaries predict the health reform law will extend the life of the Medicare Part A Trust Fund by 12 years (from 2017 to 2029), only 14 percent of seniors know this and nearly half (45%) of seniors think the health reform law will weaken the financial condition of the fund.


  27. Doug Jones must live a boring life. That's a lot of typing that 1 person read.


  28. It takes a little effort to seek out and provide facts. I merely cut and pasted the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll from this month. It's not boring at all to care about my fellow man, or my country, or my world.

    It's quicker for commenters who write baseless assertions and slurs, I'm sure.


  29. The only “fact” that is inconvenient is the fact of “responsibility”. That is something that Doug Jones find inconvenient. The FACT that someone takes responsibility for their lives is foreign to Doug Jones. All he wants is for people to be about to have the “convenience” of freeloading off the government.


  30. Yes, every person should be able to take responsibility for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills at any moment. Given that many modern conservatives feel that companies, inluding insurers, should make maximum profits and pay their upper executives millions of dollars a year while reducing workers' compensation, and government should be forced to pay workers poorly and slash their health care and retirement benefits, where would the money come from so that they could “take responsibility”?

    Let's say your brother was unable to purchase private health care insurance due to a pre-existing condition, or he was laid off from his job and was unable to find another immediately. Someone runs a red light and he suffers life-threatening injuries through no fault of his own, or he contracts cancer or another disease which is both difficult and expensive to treat. How, exactly, should he “take responsibility”?


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