Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Citizen Activism, the fight for a 'Public Option', and the Movement for National Healthcare Reform


The Feinstein 1200 Newsletter is a publication that was put together by an engaged citizen from the San Francisco Bay Area who is trying to organize public opinion in support of a public option for healthcare reform. When Chuleenan attended an August session at Senator Diane Feinstein's San Francisco office to push her to support a public option, she met a woman who was very interested in citizen action on healthcare. That woman collected people's emails and began sending messages to folks interested in staying informed about healthcare. She eventually established a restricted Google group, The Feinstein 1200, which aims to link this community, and to provide a sounding board to exchange ideas and news on the issue of health care reform throughout the August recess.

The following excerpts from the Newsletter raise some very important facts about the current national fight for real healthcare reform. Check it out,,,


The Feinstein 1200 Newsletter: October 19, 2009

This Feinstein 1200 Newsletter is devoted entirely to today’s appearance by former U.S. Labor Secretary, Berkeley professor, and tireless public option supporter Robert Reich on WNYC, which you can hear through the blogspot.

I've excerpted three quotes, for those who don't have 15 minutes for the entire program.

1) Reich’s “bombshell” on the agreement between the White House and health insurers,

2) A quick quote from Reich on insurance anti-trust exemptions, and

3) Most importantly, Reich's clarification of what is now possible through the Senate.

1. Reich’s bombshell: On today's WNYC interview, Reich stated: “Originally there was a kind of agreement between the insurance companies and the White House, started last January, and that agreement was the WH saying to the insurance companies:

‘Look, we can get you 30-35 million more customers, but you have to agree to just, uh, to be quiet. Don’t do what you did during Bill Clinton’s health care fight. Don’t run ads against us, don’t be an obstreperous, negative lobbying force. At the very least be quiet, you’ll make much more money if we can get this thing through. And when it comes to a public option, we, that is the White House, we will not push it. If it gets enacted, that’s okay, but we’re not going to push it, that’s up to Congress.’

“Now that deal began to unravel probably about 3 or 4 weeks ago, and certainly the last piece of that unraveling was a major study produced by the insurance lobby in Washington saying that the health care reforms emerging from the Hill were going to cost consumers much more than the White House or the Congressional Budget Office had let on. Why did the insurance company do an about-face? I think because instead of getting the 25-35 million new customers that they were promised by the White House, it looked as if they were only going to get 20 million new customers. And the Senate Finance Committee and other committees were even toying with the idea of reducing the penalties on people who would not necessarily sign up, which means there could be even fewer benefits for them.”

2. In response to the question of whether there is an anti-trust exemption for insurance companies: “They do have an anti-trust exemption, and that means that there is really not very much that the government - unless that exemption is taken away - can do about insurance companies getting together and monopolizing a local market or a national market. Which is exactly why I and so many others have been calling for a public insurance option, something that would give the insurance companies some real competition. And (in Saturday’s media address) the President did come down rhetorically on the insurance companies, but I did not hear anything about him going to demand a public option.”

(Editor’s note: this mirrors President Obama’s omission of any statement about a public insurance option, or “public option”, during his fundraising appearance in San Francisco on Thursday evening. So is he still trying to “play nice” with an insurance lobby that is trying to destroy his health care reform package? Mr. President, the insurance lobby is not your real friend. Those of us holding you to your promises are, believe it or not, your real friends - we want, and need, for you to have a genuine legacy, and we believe that's possible if you don't continue to bend to corporate interests.)

3. Most importantly, Reich clarified: “Most people don’t understand but it’s critically important in terms of understanding the process of the Senate: All Harry Reid has to get is 60 senators (and there are 60 democrats) to vote for a procedural motion to get the health care bill to the Senate floor. They don’t have to vote in favor of the health care bill. If they don’t like the health care bill, if they’re Mary Landrieu from Louisiana who’s in serious trouble because her state is so conservative, they can say to constituents: ‘I’m just voting for procedural motion because I think it’s fair to get the bill voted on.’ Now once Harry Reid gets those 60 votes for procedural motion to overcome a filibuster and gets the vote to the floor, then all he needs is 51 votes, and by many peoples’ head counts, he does have 51 votes, including a good chance of 51 votes for a public insurance option. And again that option is critically important because if we don’t have it, we won’t be able to afford health care in years ahead because there won’t be competition for the private insurance companies.”

Please contact me with any questions or comments. You might also want to check out Reich's blog.

Many thanks,

Eva Chrysanthe

The Feinstein 1200