Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 24th, 2009
I received an e-mail from Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) today that updates my knowledge of where he stands in the health care debate.
As Van Hollen might write, I’m pleased to report that he makes repeated and positive mention of the “public option” in his remarks, which naturally center on HR 3200, the “American Affordable Health Choices Act.” From the e-mail:
The American Affordable Health Choices Act fulfills the promise of bringing real change to America through two key provisions: giving Americans the choice of a public health option and providing universal coverage to all Americans. [...]
One of the most significant elements of this bill will be the public health option. A public option is essential for creating choice for consumers and more competition for the insurance companies. The top 10 insurance companies have seen their profits increase 430 percent over the last seven years, yet the majority of Americans’ incomes have stayed flat while their insurance premiums have sky rocketed. A public option will keep insurance companies honest and bring health costs down for the American people.
This may or may not be a surprise to close watchers of the health care reform debate, but Van Hollen’s unequivocal emphasis — at least at this point — on the public option was welcome news to me. Last year during the election he actually went further, endorsing a “single payer,” Medicare for all reform, but hasn’t opined on that since then as far as I know.
In an September 1 interview with Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, this is how Van Hollen handicapped the prospects for the public option:
Right now, you have Senate moderates saying they can’t pass a bill with a public plan and House liberals saying they won’t pass a bill without one. Is health-care reform between a rock and a hard place?
We need to let it play out more. In the House there’s a consensus in support of the public option, and people coming back from their districts continue to support a public option. Then we’ll have to see what the Senate does and where we go from there. As we come back, the White House will have to play a bigger role in this debate.
I wonder how he rates Obama on that score now; that’s somewhat less than a pledge to fight for a public option no matter what. But given his continued support for a public option — a stance that is presumably in step with other House Democrat leaders — it’s important to support Baucus bill amendments like Jay Rockefeller’s that add the public option to the Senate bill.
EDIT, 9/25: “Representative,” “(D-MD-8),” and link to the congressional web site added.