Sen. Dodd declares for strong public option as health care reform markup begins

Americans mobilize for public health option

Call senators toll-free 866-210-3678, unions urge

A week before health care activists poured into the nation’s capitol demanding health care for all with a public option or single payer, Sen. Chris Dodd had taken time away from preparing for Senate Health Committee sessions to meet via web with members of Families USA, Doctors for America and unions SEIU, CWA.

Dodd is sitting in for Sen. Ted Kennedy.

“I am an advocate of a very strong public option in this plan,” said Dodd. “You can’t drive down costs if you don’t have it.” He said that while he hopes for a bi-partisan bill, “I won’t sacrifice a good bill for that.”

The contentious mark up sessions by the Health Committee have been dominated by Republican pro-insurance company claims that any public option will mean health care “rationing.” In fact, under the current private profit system 50 million uninsured and 40 million underinsured have little access to necessary care and medications.

This battle in the Senate was the target of thousands of activists from 20 states who came to Washington on June 25 to rally and lobby their Senators and Representatives to support a choice that would be free of insurance company control.

The rally and lobby day was organized by Health Care for America Now, a coalition of 1,000 national organizations including the AFL-CIO, which was a major mobilizer. The Communication Workers of America incorporated the rally and lobby as part of their national convention which had been taking place in Washington at the same time.

While HCAN is pressing for a strong public option, many of the member organizations have endorsed HR 676, the single payer Medicare for All bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers.

On June 27, Organizing for America held health care days of service across the country in support of President Obama’s plan which includes public option.

In answer to a question from Alice Chen, executive director of Doctors for America, Dodd told the conference call that he is hopeful because a new poll shows 76 percent of the public favors public option. Referring to sections of the business community he said “some allies have come across that divide and joined with us….the economic crisis in our country—foreclosures, loss of jobs, decline in earning power, pensions abused by some,” have made a section of business realize “they can’t afford it any longer.”

Dodd said all Democrats on his committee “believe a public option is critical, the vast majority of the Democratic caucus is for it, the House is, the President is for a public option. But we are not done,” he warned, urging massive grassroots pressure during the next ten weeks of markup. “A minority in the Senate can cause real problems.”

Dr. Luella Toni Lewis of SEIU urged everyone to call their senators on the toll free number 1-866-210-3678. Participants were also asked to “call, e-mail, get in the streets, and visit your member of Congress when they come home for recess.”


Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.