As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Going after Blanche Lincoln on the public option

The HELP Committee's release of a more affordable health care reform that covers more people and includes a public option highlights the essential truth of this issue, that more reform actually lowers the cost and increases the effectiveness. Kay Hagan, once thought to be the lone holdout in the Committee on the public option, reportedly supports the final bill. Perhaps she wanted to avoid the spectacle of breast cancer survivors coming to her office and demanding that she not stand in the way of real health care reform. Other moderate Dems, like Mary Landrieu, are feeling the pressure from their constituents.

Now it's time to take on Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).

Like other so-called moderates, Lincoln has so far rejected the public plan option for health care, preferring the pale alternative of state-run co-ops. She fears that consumers would have better choices, lower premiums and better care, for all intents and purposes.

“One of our biggest concerns is that it doesn’t need to be a government plan that usurps that ability to compete in the marketplace, which I’m concerned that a totally government-run option would do,” she said.

Blanche Lincoln is one of the few Democrats wavering on this element of health care reform who faces re-election in 2010. Unlike some of the others, she is more directly accountable to the voters. But she probably feels more accountable to insurance companies - she's taken hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions from them over the years, and in those years Arkansas has practically become a one-horse town when it comes to insurance:

The Justice Department considers an industry to be “highly concentrated” if one company has 42 percent of the market. In Arkansas — Senator Lincoln should take note — Blue Cross Blue Shield has 75 percent of the market. If you take government self-insurance plans out of the equation, it's higher. The state ranks as the ninth most concentrated in the country. Is it any wonder that insurance premiums have risen five times as fast as wages?

If we can highlight this inequity and bring Lincoln around, we can win this debate. Blue America PAC, which includes progressive bloggers like John Amato (Crooks and Liars), Jane Hamsher (Firedoglake), Howie Klein (Down With Tyranny) and Digby, decided to launch the Campaign for Health Care Choice, raising money for ads targeting Lincoln in her own state over health care reform and the public option.

I was pleased to help in this effort. Digby wrote the spots. Amato provided the location. I directed them and edited them. Brave New Films supplied logistics and equipment. And as a result, we created 3 HD spots that force Sen. Lincoln to make a choice between insurers or the people.

Now, Blue America wants you to choose the best spot that we will run in Arkansas starting next week.

We aren't standing still while the fat cats get fatter. So here's the thing. We've produced three different commercials with the help of BNF's to run in Lincoln's state of Arkansas and we need your help.

We've already raised over $18,000 so far and that's awesome, but what we want you to do next is it to vote for the ad that you think we should run first and you'll be letting us know by adding one, two, or three cents at the end of your donation on our Blue America's Campaign For Health Care page. Here's how it will go.

#1 Blue America Health Care Campaign - Blanche Lincoln: "I Thought We Had Insurance" Add one cent to your contribution if you want to vote for this spot.

#2 Blue America Health Care Campaign - Blanche Lincoln: "Bonuses" Add two cents to your contribution if you want to vote for this spot.

#3 Blue America Health Care Campaign - Blanche Lincoln: "Bailout" Add three cents to your contribution if you want to vote for this spot.

The deadline is Friday at noon. The spot that earns the most money by then will get run in Arkansas. Go to this Act Blue page to cast your vote.

More broadly, progressive action on this debate is crucial to letting lawmakers know about the consequences of a bad reform. Even the HELP Committee option on the public plan and health insurance exchanges is not necessarily sufficient to alter the perverse incentives in the system. Designing a large insurance exchange that is national in scope can break the local monopolies that insurers have in their states, and adding a public plan to that exchange will force them to compete on price and quality instead of on how many people they can deny coverage. The House bill improves upon the HELP bill, which improves upon the Senate Finance Committee bill. We need to get the dynamic for lawmakers moving in the right direction. And so grassroots action and pressure can go a long way to having Senators like Blanche Lincoln afraid to vote against a popular policy that is also more fiscally responsible. If the reform gets whittled down to nothing, Democrats will own a bad reform, face a massive backlash, and will lose their advantage on domestic issues generally. We must implement legislation that works.

So contribute to this campaign if you can, and vote for your favorite spot to run in Arkansas.


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