Monday, June 8, 2009

Is Jim Cooper Breaking From The Blue Dogs?

Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but when Rep. Jim Cooper sat down with progressive bloggers a couple of months back, I clearly remember him supporting the Healthy Americans Act that didn’t have a public option and in fact eliminated existing public plans like SCHIP and Medicaid.

Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but I thought Rep. Cooper said at that time that he didn’t support a public option because he didn’t feel it had a chance of passing, it lacked bipartisan support, etc.

But as I said, maybe I’m remembering it wrong. I’m not being flippant either: maybe I really am remembering it wrong.

Of course, President Obama has come out strongly in favor of a public option and it seems some of the Blue Dogs have come around, including Rep. Cooper.

But it gets better. Now, in this video from Saturday’s Organizing For America’s healthcare meeting, Rep. Cooper says he not only supports a public option but one without a trigger (the “trigger” meaning the public option would only be available as a fallback in case private insurance companies don’t prove adequate).

Watch it:

Cooper is the Vice Chairman of the Blue Dog Health Care Task Force. Last week they released this statement about the public option, listing conditions including:
• Available Only as a Fallback: The availability of a public option would occur only as a fallback and in the absence of adequate competition and cost containment. Fundamental insurance market reforms and increased choice through the Exchange should improve access and contribute to lower costs. However, should the private plans fail to meet specific availability and cost targets, a public option would be triggered and be allowed to compete on a level playing field subject to the conditions outlined above.

So it seems Rep. Cooper is breaking from the Blue Dogs on this key point, which would be fabulous news. So, good on’ya, Coop.

Seems like those folks against the public option are arguing that the government shouldn’t be competing against private enterprise. That’s a long, complicated issue, and it’s one I’ve heard before applied to a different industry. But the bottom line is, if competition is supposed to be so great, then what does it matter if it’s the government competing or another private insurance company?

Personally, I don’t see why private insurance companies are supposed to be so great. They take your money every month and then use your premiums to hire people to pour over your claims to figure out why they shouldn’t have to pay them. But whatever. Maybe a little pressure from a government plan would force them to operate a little more legitimately.