POLITICS
04/26/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Public Option Activists Not Giving Up The Fight, Targeting Seven Dem Senators

Though the White House and Democratic leadership in the House have pronounced the death of the public option, advocates for the provision are not giving up efforts to get it passed via reconciliation in the Senate.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is targeting seven Democratic senators who have yet to sign a letter urging Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to go down this route, pointing to reports that insurance giant Wellpoint is set to raise rates in the lawmakers' home states.

The target list includes Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Jim Webb (Va.), Russ Feingold (Wisc.), Herb Kohl (Wisc.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo). Some on the list, such as Feingold, have already indicated that they would support a public plan being passed by reconciliation. Bayh, likewise, told the Huffington Post that he was open to voting in favor of a government-run insurance option should it be passed through budgetary procedure. Others such as Dodd have expressed past support for the public option. And others seem much harder to persuade, specifically the Virginia bloc.

The email campaign may, in the end, be an effort in futility. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that the president did not believe the public option had the votes to pass the Senate even through reconciliation. It was, not surprisingly, not included in the president's final bill. Around the same time, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) offered a similar analysis of the political landscape.

But the PCCC folks -- who accused Gibbs of having a "loser mentality" following Tuesday's briefing -- think that the Wellpoint news may prove to be an effective catalyst to getting recalcitrant senators on board. On Wednesday, the Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund reported that in 11 states where the insurance giant was "active," individual premium are expected to rise by double digits. Those states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Already, the prospective rate hikes in California have been enough to spur one Senator -- Dianne Feinstein -- to sign on to the public option through reconciliation campaign. Though it should be noted that Bayh's wife serves on Wellpoint's board.

The PCCC email reads as follows:

Dear XXXX,

How would you like your health insurance rates to go up 15 to 20 percent? Sound good?

According to a new report this morning, WellPoint Blue Cross Blue Shield in Virginia is planning to do exactly that. Why? Because they can. The insurance market lacks competition.

Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner still have not joined 23 other senators on the letter calling for a public health insurance option.

Can you call Webb and Warner immediately and insist they sign the public option letter? Click here for the number and a script.