House Bill Wins Over Progressives

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's newly unveiled health care package isn't as ambitious as what most progressives have called for, but they're praising it as a big step toward passing a reform package that includes a public option.

"Today, House leadership proved it is on our side with a bill that makes health care much more affordable, ends egregious insurance industry abuse, and injects real choice and competition with the inclusion of a national public health insurance option," said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now!, the conglomeration of liberal interest groups that makes up the progressive-advocacy side of the health care debate.

"Today, the House of Representative's introduction of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act made clear that President Obama's challenge to our nation holds true: 'Yes We Can.' ... Yes we can have a strong public option that drives costs down and gives people the power to choose what is best for their family," said Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern.

"Today's release of a progressive health care reform bill by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi puts America's working families one big step closer to getting quality and affordable health care, and it's a model for fair financing. ... The inclusion of a public plan option ensures that we reduce skyrocketing health care costs by holding insurance companies accountable and forcing them to compete," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

So, while Pelosi compromised on payment rates--letting doctors and hospitals negotiate their reimbursement rates for patients covered by the government insurance plan--progressives are behind her bill nonetheless.

In other words, it was a compromise that appears to have mostly upside: it could gain Pelosi some support from moderates, but it appears not to have cost her any support from liberals.

Progressive activists have been as principled and demanding as anyone during the health reform process, insisting that a public option be included and pressuring Democratic senators to support one, and satisfying them is a significant hurdle that the House bill has cleared--not just on the way toward passing a bill, but on the way toward letting President Obama and the Democratic Party declare victory to their base, should a package similar to Pelosi's wind up on Obama's desk.