Last night, Representative Jerry Nadler held an hour-long telephone town hall meeting about health care.
It lacked the unexpected drama of some town hall events held elsewhere, being a phone event, but it did make clear that Nadler is unhappy with a concessions made to Blue Dog Democrats on health care, and that he sees President Obama’s support for the public option (or what’s left of it) as crucial to keeping it in the legislation.
“Is the president supporting the public option? Um, I think the answer is yes,” Nadler said about 43 minutes into the phone call. “I spoke to him personally last Wednesday and he said he was a strong supporter of the public option.”
“A number of members of his administration have gone on TV and made ambiguous statements, leading the newspapers to say, well, they’re giving up on it. But, that would be terrible if that were true. I don’t think the president is giving up on it,” said Nadler.
“[I]t’s like pulling teeth, with or without insurance, to get the senate to vote for a bill with a public option, and we need the strong support of the president.”
Earlier in the call, Nadler said doctors will be allowed to not accept patients who are covered by the public option, much the same way doctors are allowed to reject patients who are covered by Medicaid. Nadler said he did not like that aspect of the deal which is in two of the three versions of legislation being negotiated, and said it is likely to be in the final version of the bill.
“As a concession to so-called Blue Dogs, the conservative Democrats, to get their votes, we have had to, well, there is still going to initially be, any doctor who takes Medicare is still going to initially be in the public option, but they will be allowed to opt out of it if they want to, just as in Medicare,” Nadler said. “I’m not happy about that. We would like to improve that. But, unfortunately, we had to make that concession in order to get the bill through committee. I don’t know that we can get it back.”
Nadler assured callers that the health care legislation won’t add to the nation’s deficit because it will “entirely paid for” by reducing inefficiencies in the current system, along with a tax on people making half a million dollars annually, or more.
Nadler said, “That’ll be entirely paid for, so it won’t increase the deficit by a nickel.”