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February 3rd, 2010
Progressive Caucus Calls on Leadership to Put Public Option Back On The Health Reform Agenda

Washington, D.C. – Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, today called on House and Senate leaders to put a public option back on the table as health reform moves forward. In light of the more than 120 co-signers of the Pingree/Polis letter calling for the measure to be included in any final bill, Grijalva and Woolsey said a public insurance option should be the centerpiece of any reconciliation effort between the two chambers.

A public option is supported by 60 percent of Americans, according to recent polling, and would be the greatest deficit reducer of any proposal contained in the House and Senate bills.

“The Senate has assured us all along that it has at least 51 votes for a public option, and now is the time to step up and deliver,” said Rep. Grijalva. “The only place in this country where a public option is controversial is in the halls of Congress. The American people have called on us to give them a better health care system, and the signers of this letter want to finish the job.”

Rep. Woolsey called a public option “the best way to provide competition to the big insurance companies, forcing them to control costs and making coverage more affordable for everyone. We think if reconciliation is an option, the Senate could be convinced to pass a public option, and we look forward to working with House leadership to do so.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), one of the authors of the letter, said creating a public option “is about leveling the playing field. It would give consumers more choice and the insurance companies a little competition. Plus, it’s what the American public wants. With all the noise in this debate, the need for real reform that benefits the public has been lost. We need to be sure that families have real choice in selecting their insurer and that quality health care is affordable to all. The public option provides the reform we need.”

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), the other author of the letter, said a public option is “one of the most popular aspects of the health care debate because it directly challenges the power of insurance companies and will keep costs low. Americans are hungry for change and looking to Congress to take charge of the situation. Our job now is to convince Washington what the American people already know – that this is not a time to give up on the public option or slow down on reducing health care costs.”

Grijalva and Woolsey said the window for swift and decisive action is closing.

“We must do what we set out to do a year ago, before the entrenched interests who oppose reform double their efforts to kill it,” Grijalva said. “A public option is good policy and is supported by a solid majority of voters. There is now nothing standing in the way of enacting the kind of reform the House has been pursuing all along.”

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