For the first time since the health care debate started, Blanche Lincoln has made a positive statement about the public option. Blue America is scheduled to run ads today against her previous position that said she was worried a public plan would hurt the insurance companies.
“We want to keep what works in the private industry and make it better,” Lincoln told Arkansas reporters in a conference call today. “There’s a lot of discussion about what else we might need that we can’t get from the private sector.”
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.
She was afraid the poor, poor health insurers would be a cryin’. Greg Sargent at the Washington Post’s Plum Line called her office and asked Blanche for comment on Monday about the ads that Blue America is running. Here’s her response.
Looks like pressure from the left might be getting results, albeit limited ones, in the case of “centrist” Dem Senator Blanche Lincoln, who has been resisting any commitment to backing a public health care option.
Lincoln, who’s getting hammered by ads demanding she commit to the public option, has now shifted towards supporting one, at least in rhetorical terms. In a piece for today’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, she says the final health care reform should include a public plan or a non-profit substitute.
Here’s the key graf from Lincoln (the piece is subscription only):
Health care reform must build upon what works and improve inefficiencies. Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan.
The assertion that reform “should” have a public plan or non-profit substitute is a shift from her previous position, which was only that she was “evaluating” a public plan or a substitute.
Lincoln’s position had made her a top target of the left. The Blue America PAC, which is headed by liberal bloggers Howie Klein, Jane Hamsher, John Amato and Digby, raised money for ads targeting Lincoln in her home state of Arkansas, pushing her to commit to a public option…read on
Yes, she left herself a little wiggle room, but that’s what the pols have all been doing so far in the health-care debate. She’s now much closer to Chuck Schumer’s position than that of Max Baucus. Lincoln actually used Blue America’s framing in her op-ed. We’re not done yet, but all I can say is that this was made possible by your contributions and a lot of hard work by the brilliant Digby and the rest of the Blue America PAC.
In this op-ed, Lincoln makes absolutely no mention of an employer mandate to provide coverage to their workers, which Wal-Mart, America’s largest employer and a virtual kingmaker in Arkansas, signed onto this week. Instead, Lincoln goes out of her way to support a public insurance option in competition with private insurance. There are weasel words there, of course – note the “non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals.” But in the final analysis, two events happened to Blanche Lincoln in health care recently – Wal-Mart’s sign-on to the employer mandate and the prospect of Blue America running ads in her state ($25,000 can go a fairly long way on cable in Arkansas, by the way). She chose to specifically align herself with the element of health care policy that Blue America endorses.
But she’s not all the way there, so we plan to keep pushing. But this should be a valuable lesson – every small thing you do to advance solutions to the health care crisis can make a difference. The political animals in the Senate know that on this high-profile vote, defying the public on a popular plank will cause them some difficulty. It’s up to us to make sure of that.
Please support the Campaign for Health Care Choice so we can continue to raise the pressure on the ConservaDems who want to hijack this crucial policy goal
By the way, Greg Sargent’s blog is a must-read every day.