So according to a new book by former Sen. Tom Daschle, President Obama gave up on the so-called “public option” as part of any health-care reform package no later than July 8, 2009:
In his book, Daschle reveals that after the Senate Finance Committee and the White Houseconvinced hospitals to to accept $155 billion in payment reductions over ten years on July 8, the hospitals and Democrats operated under two “working assumptions.” “One was that the Senate would aim for health coverage of at least 94 percent of Americans,” Daschle writes. “The other was that it would contain no public health plan,” which would have reimbursed hospitals at a lower rate than private insurers.
I asked Daschle if the White House had taken the option off the table in July 2009 and if all future efforts to resuscitate the provision were destined to fail:
DASCHLE: I don’t think it was taken off the table completely. It was taken off the table as a result of the understanding that people had with the hospital association, with the insurance (AHIP), and others. I mean I think that part of the whole effort was based on a premise. That premise was, you had to have the stakeholders in the room and at the table. Lessons learned in past efforts is that without the stakeholders’ active support rather than active opposition, it’s almost impossible to get this job done. They wanted to keep those stakeholders in the room and this was the price some thought they had to pay. Now, it’s debatable about whether all of these assertions and promises are accurate, but that was the calculation.
Daschle later “clarified” his comments by saying, “I did not mean to suggest in any way that the President was not committed to it. The President fought for the public option just as he did for affordable health care for all Americans. The public option was dropped only when it was no longer viable in Congress, not as a result of any deal cut by the White House.” That’s some clarification: It means that Daschle either was lying when he wrote his book or he’s lying now. For the purposes of this discussion and because I see no reason to do otherwise, I’m going to presume that the book is accurate and the “clarification” was issued only because he’s getting some blowback from the White House.
I get that whether or not it actually was necessary to trade the public option to get some kind of reform passed, the Obama team might have thought it was necessary … and acted accordingly.
But if that were the case, why didn’t they just say so at the time? Why did they keep so many other people in the dark, both in and out of Congress? Because as late as December 2009, some prominent House Democrats were publicly stating that they wouldn’t sign off on any House-Senate health-care reconciliation that did not include a public option.
Did Obama’s people honestly think no one would ever find out? Or did they just not care that people (including prominent congresscritters of their own party), once they found out, would be furious about having gone to a lot of trouble to fight for something that was never going to happen and thus having been made to look like fools?
Seriously, I absolutely do not get this. What is the upside in this approach? What policy or political gain could possibly be derived from it — for Obama, for congressional Dems, for consumers?
Meanwhile, the White House, which badly needs its base voters in this midterm election, has been telling them publicly to shut up and be grateful for what they got, when what they got was a little bit of progress mixed with a lot of continuation (and, in some cases, worsening) of Bush policy and constant dismissal. No damn wonder the Dems have an “enthusiasm gap.” If I were a base Dem voter and had been treated this way, I’d be telling the president right now to Foxtrot Oscar Alpha Delta.
Am I missing something here? Because the only scenario in which this makes any sense is if Barack Obama is on Karl Rove’s payroll.