So here, finally, is an account of our recent conversation with Rep. Anna Eshoo on the issue of health care reform.
We wrote on June 10 that Eshoo had been pilloried as a flunky for the health insurance industry by a writer at The Daily Kos, the prominent liberal blog.
Eshoo had been quoted as saying there aren’t enough votes in Congress for a singer-payer option, which is progressives’ great hope for establishing univeral health coverage.
(It should be noted that since we spoke with Eshoo, prospects for the inclusion of a robust public option in a health care reform bill, which seemed dire, appear to have improved.)
Eshoo — who as a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health will have a hand in shaping the House bill — was adamant when we spoke that the bill will contain a public option and that everyone will be included, meaning coverage will be universal. Critics, however, say that, unless the option is single-payer, meaning the government would set up a single fund to cover the expenses of those involved in a government plan, it is unlikely to actually achieve full coverage.
When asked why she said single-payer was not viable, Eshoo echoed President Barack Obama, who has said it would be an attractive option if lawmakers were starting from scratch, rather than reforming an existing system.
“As the president said, to eliminate the employer-based system would be tremendously disruptive,” Eshoo said.
When we asked her what she meant when she said there were not enough votes for a single-payer option, Eshoo deflected.
“This is something that requires a great deal of consensus,” she said. “If this were low-hanging fruit, it would have been picked a long time ago.”
We asked if she was basing that assessment on conversations with other representatives or some sort of backroom straw poll, but she didn’t answer. Was she talking about Republican votes or Democratic votes? Since Republicans can be counted on to vote against whatever proposal the Democrats come up with, we figured she was talking about getting enough Democratic votes to mount a filibuster-proof majority.
Again, she wouldn’t say, circling back to her assertion that House leaders are taking their cues from Obama, who doesn’t want a single-payer option.
When we asked her whether taking a progressive option off the table before engaging in serious negotiations and compromise with GOP leaders will serve to water down the bill unnecessarily, she seized on our use of the word “liberal” to describe the single-payer plan.
“I’m not interested in left, right or center,” she said. “That’s not what this is about.”
We’ll see how the process continues to unfold. For now, though, the bottom line is that, as this recent New York Times poll indicates, there is substantial public support for a universal government-run plan. Which makes it hard to understand why Democratic legislators have been so reluctant to embrace a bold vision for reform. It’s a stance that, fairly or unfairly, opens them up to cynical questions about their movitation.