President Obama’s address to the nation on health care tonight begins the endgame of reform. We shouldn’t forget that health reform has come a long way. As a candidate, President Obama called for fundamental health reform that would provide strong new regulation on private insurers, offer generous subsidies to make coverage affordable for all and introduce real competition with a strong public insurance option.
Committees in both the House and Senate have followed his lead and constructed good plans including a strong public option. The recent proposal from Montana Senator Max Baucus of the Senate Finance Committee includes many of these planks, although it unfortunately makes a step backward in the march to reform by not providing a strong public option. This is a particularly distressing retreat because Senator Baucus was actually for a strong public option before he was against it, and, there’s no sound economic reason why a public option is less necessary today that it was when the Senator introduced his proposal on health reform in November 2008.
Tonight, President Obama should keep progressive reform moving forward and make the case to the American people about why a strong public option is central to make health reform sustainable.