speaknow

Ok, y’all, this is it. This is the moment of truth for determining whether we’ll have access to affordable health care for the foreseeable future. At Talking Points Memo, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich does a great job articulating why this is such a crucial moment: The insurance and pharmaceutical companies have begun their congressional press to kill President Obama’s proposed public plan, and if key Senators don’t hear a loud and clear contrary message from their constituents soon, it’ll be too late.

Big Pharma and Big Insurance are gaining ground in their campaign to kill the public option in the emerging health care bill.

You know why, of course. They don't want a public option that would compete with private insurers and use its bargaining power to negotiate better rates with drug companies. They argue that would be unfair. Unfair? Unfair to give more people better health care at lower cost? To Pharma and Insurance, "unfair" is anything that undermines their profits.

So they're pulling out all the stops -- pushing Democrats and a handful of so-called "moderate" Republicans who say they're in favor of a public option to support legislation that would include it in name only.

Reich reports that the industry has floated a number of alternatives to the public option envisioned by the president and Sen. Ted Kennedy. But the alternative gaining the most ground is coming from Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe—a well-regarded, moderate Republican, whom Democrats could safely hide behind if they didn’t want to stand up to the drug and insurance industries.

Under Snowe’s proposal, a public plan would come online at some vague point in the future only if private companies can’t reduce costs and expand coverage on their own. Of course, the whole reason we’re having this conversation is that the industry has already proven it’s unable to do either. So how does this proposal change the status quo? It doesn’t, and that’s the point. As Reich notes, industry hopes simply to delay meaningful reform long enough for the current political and economic urgency to dissipate.

There will never be a better time than now to enact a public option. If it's not included, in a few years the public's attention will be elsewhere.

[snip]

All this will be decided within days or weeks. And once those who want to kill the public option without their fingerprints on the murder weapon begin to agree on a proposal—Snowe's "trigger" or any other—the public option will be very hard to revive. The White House must now insist on a genuine public option. And you, dear reader, must insist as well.

This is it, folks. The concrete is being mixed and about to be poured. And after it's poured and hardens, universal health care will be with us for years to come in whatever form it now takes.

Let’s please not do that thing where we all look back years later and get pissed that Congress didn’t get it right. Let’s not do that thing where we all just assume democratic government will work without us actually participating in the democratic process. If, like millions of others, you voted for Barack Obama because he promised he’d take on the wasteful, ineffective health insurance industry, then contact your senators and representatives and tell them so. Do it now. Families USA has a tool that will help. Do it. Really. Right now. Then go over to Obama’s Organizing for America and see how you can get involved in that effort to push health reform, too.

—KAI WRIGHT

UPDATE: At the Mothership, Ezra Klein lays out the three most likely options facing lawmakers drafting a bill—"the 'Trigger' Plan" (Snowe's), the "Weak Public Plan" and the "Strong Public Plan."