By KYUNG M. SONG
June 18th, 2009
The Seattle Times
Would you buy a health-insurance policy sold by the U.S. government?
What if it offered good coverage, affordable rates and were available anywhere in the country?
Pushing back against Republican attacks on President Obama's vision
of a public-health plan, a nationwide coalition of state lawmakers,
small-business owners, physicians, community groups and others
Wednesday launched a public-relations campaign aimed at building
support for an option they believe is essential for meaningful health
Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, was one of several state lawmakers who
delivered a letter to Congress on Wednesday urging quick action on an
overhaul that includes a public plan to compete with private insurers.
The letter was signed by 700 state legislators from 47 states, including 33 from Washington.
Several members of the state's congressional delegation have
expressed support for the public option, including Sen. Patty Murray,
Rep. Jim McDermott, Rep. Norm Dicks, Rep. Jay Inslee and Rep. Adam
Smith, all Democrats.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, also a Democrat, is a notable exception. A
spokeswoman said Cantwell is open to all public-plan proposals that
allow for "competition on a level playing field with the private
Susie Taylor, co-owner of TNT Software in Vancouver, Wash., said
that for small businesses such as hers, private insurers have ceased to
be viable options. Taylor said her premiums have risen by 60 percent in
five years, forcing her to stop paying for coverage for the dependents
of her employees.
"We need to have insurance companies compete for our health-care
dollars," Taylor said during a conference call arranged by Heath Care
for America Now, a national grass-roots campaign made up of more than
1,000 organizations. "We need another choice. And that needs to be a
Dr. Julian Perez, a physician at Sea Mar Community Health Center in
Burien, said only a national plan could offer the buying clout,
simplified paperwork, portability and accountability to help the 46
million Americans without coverage, and rein in soaring health-care
Some physician organizations and the insurance industry oppose a
public plan, fearing that it would cut into their earnings or drive
them out of business.
But Perez said he'd welcome a change that would free doctors like
him to practice medicine instead of deciphering insurance benefits and
scrambling for ways to care for patients without insurance.