Except it's not true. As the TPM article that is the source of this latest poutrage explains, Dashcle not only walked back his comments, but also never in the first place claimed that his comments were based on first-hand knowledge of inside-the-White-House deliberations.
That rendering flies in the face of the White House's narrative, so TPM emailed Daschle to ask whether his statement reflected first-hand knowledge of the stakeholder negotiations, or was a conclusion he'd drawn independently. In response, he walked back the entire claim.In addition, just why is what Tom Daschle says so important on this? Daschle was nominated and then withdrawn as the Secretary of HHS. Daschle is not a member of the White House staff. And in fact, in context, his interview that created the impression that the public option went away because of some sort of deal being cut, seems much more likely to have been speculation.
"In describing some of the challenges to passage of the public option in the health reform bill, I did not mean to suggest in any way that the President was not committed to it," Daschle emails. "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. While I was disappointed that the public option was not included in the final legislation, the Affordable Care Act remains a tremendous achievement for the President and the nation." [underline mine, bold from original.]
“The other was that it would contain no public health plan,” which would have reimbursed hospitals at a lower rate than private insurers.Couple of things. A public option "which would have reimbursed hospitals at a lower rate than private insurers" would have been the Medicare-rate based public option, not just any public option. Even if this turn of speculative events is to be believed completely, the deal did not include the absence of a public option but of one that would base its reimbursement rates on Medicare. Even by the count of the most vociferous ideological public option-or-bust supporters, the House was 12-15 votes shy of a Medicare rate-based public option on the eve of its passage of health reform. So the House voted and passed instead a negotiated rate public option, in which the government would negotiate payment rates just as any insurer would.
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. I think there is probably a good deal of truth to it. You look at past efforts and the doctors and the hospitals, and the insurance companies all opposed health care reform. This time, in various degrees of enthusiasm, they supported it. And if I had to point out some of the key differences between then and now, it would be the most important examples of the difference. [underline mine, bold from original.]
Which brings us to the second point. If the version of the story being perpetuated by the naysayers is to be believed, the deal was cut with the stakeholders in July of 2009. Hmm. But then you come back to reality and realize that the House passed its bill, with a public option, in early November of 2009. If the naysaying allegations are to be believed, you have to believe two contradictory things:
- First, the only reason a public option did not make as part of the final law is that the President refused to "push" for it. If only the President had used his powers of persuasion, a public option would surely have made it into the law. That's how strong the President's powers of persuasion with Congress are.
- Second, even after making a deal and being set against the public option - any public option - for three months, the President failed to persuade the House from passing a health care bill with a public option. That's how weak the President's powers of persuasion are.
The plain fact of the matter is that those trying to discredit the White House on health care reform cannot get their story straight. The simple truth is that the President was always for a public option, and we were unable to get one because of two reasons: uniform Republican opposition and Joe Lieberman (aka the Senate we-supported-John-McCain-in-2008 caucus). Now I don't know who the whiners are kidding, but none of them was going to be convinced by Obama's "bully-pulpitting." The votes were simply not there in the Senate, and as a result, in order to pass the whole reform even without one important part, it had to be sacrificed. No one ought to be happy about the sacrifice, but no one should be deluded into thinking that anything other than a vote count in the Senate stopped it. Any other idea is simply wishful thinking.