WAY TO GO, SNOWE?…. If the Democratic campaign for health care reform is going to get any support from Republicans at all, the most likely GOP supporter is Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine. In April, the moderate Republican signaled, for example, at least some support for a public option.
What kind of follow-through can we expect from Snowe? Over the weekend, at a health care reform rally for 600 people in Maine, a staffer from Snowe’s office read an official statement from the senator on her position. The statement was purportedly written by Snowe herself.
“Congress must implement long overdue insurance market reforms such as the guaranteed issue of a policy for every American and no refusal or adverse pricing of policies on the basis of health status or gender. We also must insure that those plans include a very strong benefit package, from preventative services to comprehensive medical benefits. And offering extra assistance to families who need help in affording a plan must be part and parcel of any legislation.
“I believe that the reforms we are creating will result in more competitive, affordable and innovative options for Mainers, yet we can all agree that we must not leave universal access to chance. That is why I also support a public plan which must be available from day one. [emphasis added]
“So I urge all of you here today to join me in partnership to secure for our nation that which every other developed nation already embraces, the provision of health security for all of its’ citizens. The time has long come, and I promise you I will continue to work to move heaven and earth to make it happen.”
Harold Pollack, who first reported the Snowe quote, reminds us not to be too encouraged by the remarks: “Senator Snowe’s vision of the public plan option is pretty anemic. She is one of many centrists pushing for more time, which may slow or kill the momentum for a timely bill.”
Quite right. But note that when Snowe wants to impress voters in Maine, she not only talks up reform, she sounds downright Schumer-like in endorsing a public option that’s “available from day one.” The vow, not surprisingly, drew considerable applause. To actually help make it happen would no doubt draw even more gratitude from voters.
There’s obviously reason for skepticism here, but Snowe is in a position to make a real difference — if she wants to. The senator sent the right message to her constituents over the weekend. Whether she follows through, and helps make reform a reality, is now up to her.