Last night's scoring of the Senate healthcare bill -- which includes a public option -- by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is great news for progressives and all who believe in healthcare as a right and not a privilege. The CBO announced that the Senate bill will cost 848 billion dollars over 10 years, but reduces the federal deficit by 130 billion dollars because of cost offsets.
The Senate bill comes in under President Obama's targeted cost of 900 billion dollars.
The deficit reduction makes the legislation much more viable in the now certain Republican filibuster fight. Moderate Democrats are much more likely to give the legislation the 60 votes needed to defeat the Republican filibuster because they can argue in 2010 that the legislation will actually save the government money as well as insure tens of millions more Americans, lower insurance costs for businesses and individuals, and spur the economy.
But the Senate bill is far from perfect. It levies heavy taxes on working families with employer provided healthcare. The additional necessary costs should be paid by the rich whose taxes were obscenely cut in the Bush years.
America's labor movement--already engaged in massive grassroots action--for healthcare reform will continue to push hard for legislation that does not tax working families.
But the fact that both the House version and now the Senate version include a public health insurance plan is a huge breakthrough. We are on the verge of winning healthcare legislation that creates a public insurance plan to compete with the private insurance monopolies, the realization of a long held dream and struggle toward a more just America.
Now it is time for all progressives to call and write and raise hell for the senators and Members of Congress to demand passage of real, fundamental healthcare reform with a public option, an employer mandate, and no taxes on working families.