Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mary Landrieu's sell-out on public option touches a nerve

Last week, Senator Landrieu indicated opposition to the public option, perhaps the most critical measure being considered as Congress negotiates healthcare reform. Creating a public option would create an alternative insurance plan that would help cover those traditionally ignored by the private insurance industry and would increase the affordability of insurance across the board by encouraging price competition.

The Senator's aversion to the reform breaks a promise she made on the campaign trail leading to insinuations that she's been compromised by her reliance on campaign donations from and other ties to the private insurance and healthcare industries.

Landrieu's sell-out on healthcare reform has touched a nerve as many progressive bloggers have been hammering away on the issue non stop. Big organizations like Change Congress and Democracy For America have gotten in on the act as well and have launched a two-pronged campaign to pressure the Senator at the local and national levels.

I'm not sure that the Senator has ever really felt heat from her progressive base. She takes really bad votes all the time, on climate change for instance, on which she is not held accountable. I don't think I'm going out on too much of a limb when I make the generalization that many of Landrieu's supporters understand and are willling to accept that there are going to be times where the Senator votes against progressive interests.

For me and many others, it would appear, the issue of affordable and accessible healthcare is not up for negotiation. For instance, this letter from a former full-time Landrieu volunteer was distributed by Change Congress:

"I'm a lifelong resident of Metairie, Louisiana, and I volunteered over 40 hours a week for Senator Landrieu's campaign from February through November last year.

I believed in her. But now I feel very disillusioned.

As a college student, I am currently being covered by my parent’s health insurance, but once I graduate that coverage will stop. In this economic climate, it's going to be hard enough to find a job. Now I'm worried about finding affordable health insurance, too.

If Senator Landrieu votes against the public option, I may not have a choice. Health coverage may not even be a possibility for me. I am very disappointed that not only is she opposing the public option, but giving no explanation as to why.

I hope her contributions from big insurance companies aren't leading her to vote against the interests of her constituents and supporters like me.”

You good friend and mine, Karen Gadbois, has also agreed to work with Change Congress on the issue.

I live in New Orleans and run Squandered Heritage, a non-profit that roots out post-Katrina corruption.

I'm also a breast cancer survivor.

And even though I work full-time -- I'm uninsured.

Just last week, Senator Mary Landrieu announced she is siding with insurance companies by opposing President Obama's plan for a universally available public healthcare option like Medicare. Obama's public option would force the for-profit insurance industry to compete by lowering prices and offering better care. It would also help families like mine get the healthcare we need.

I'm disappointed in Sen. Landrieu. The big health and insurance interests gave her 1.6 million in contributions and now she's siding with them against working families like mine.

But that's not all. Lamar White of the Central Louisiana blog, CenLamar, wrote a really beautiful piece about why the public option matters to him.

The Public Option Is Not A Political Issue; It Is A Human Rights Issue:

I am a 27 year old with cerebral palsy. Fortunately, my disability is very mild, and it does not affect cognition. I have degrees in Religious Studies and English from Rice University, and I’ve spent the past two and a half years working as the special assistant to the Mayor of Alexandria, Louisiana.

Until I was ten years old, I was covered by my family’s private health care plan, Traveler’s Insurance. Because of my disability, I spent much of my childhood either in hospitals or in physical therapy.


At ten years old, Traveler’s told my family that I was no longer eligible for coverage.

At ten years old, I was told that, essentially, I was the best I could ever be; as I recall, they specifically refused any additional payments for physical therapy.

I had metal screws and metal plates in my body– things that were implanted as temporary fixes, as a way of guiding and instructing my growth, things that needed to come out.


Access to health care should be considered a fundamental human right. And in the richest country in the history of our planet, this access should be unfettered and should include the services of the best professionals in their fields.

More importantly, this fundamental right to access should never be predicated on the whims and desires of a for-profit corporation.

When taking a stand against the public option, you are effectively standing against the poor, the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled. Period.

And most importantly: I know that I am not entirely unique. I know there are, right now, kids just like I used to be, kids filing through the doors of our publicly-subsidized hospitals, kids whose families can only hope that their child will be able to see the doctor who drove up in a Porsche (this, to be sure, is my experience with a certain doctor), kids who are deemed uninsurable, and kids who will never have the opportunities that I had because, fortunately, despite my disability, I belong to a family who believed in exhausting every option.

Mary Landrieu is alienating her core supporters. Her reelection campaign website continues to feature a blogroll including myself, CenLamar, Your Right Hand Thief, and the Daily Kingfish. Three of the four blogs featured on her own reelection campaign website have come out against the Senator's sell-out to healthcare profiteers over the last week. (I'm sure you're not far behind, Oyster.)

And the phone calls have been pouring in. Normally when you call her D.C. office outside of regular business hours, you're invited to leave a voicemail. Yesterday I made an attempt at 5:37 ET and was disconnected after being told that the Senator's voicemail was full and could not accept any new messages.

We must continue to flood her offices with our concerns. Tell your friends. We have got to change her mind on the public option. This is the most important domestic issue for me and nearly everyone I know, democrats, independents, non-voters, and yes, even a few pragmatic republicans. Mary Landrieu promised to deliver substantive healthcare reform and promised to fight for a public option. We must force her to keep those promises to her supporters and to the working families of Louisiana.

Washington D.C.: (202) 224-5824
New Orleans: (504) 589-2427
Baton Rouge: (225) 389-0395
Shreveport: (318) 676-3085
Lake Charles: (337) 436-6650

The cynic in me says that this can't work but you don't have to look far back into history to see evidence to the contrary. Just weeks ago, another moderate Senator, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, was backed down from his own statements against the public option after a flurry of outrage from his constituents. We can do this. Keep making calls. Tell your story.


Ricardo said...

I've been complaining that Mary is a DINO (Dem. In Name Only) for the last eight years. Unfortunately we don't have any choices.

Ryan said...


We need to get her on the record. Please, please, link to DFA's Stand With Dr. Dean page where you can send an email to your Senators.

Yes, that includes Vitter. We need to get him on the record as well.