Red state Democrat goes on health care offense: 'Start talking about the public option'


As Senate Republicans fight to repeal health care for millions of Americans, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill is shifting the conversation to how we can cover more people, not fewer.

The Republican push to repeal Obamacare, destroy Medicaid, and eliminate coverage for 22 million poor and sick Americans is temporarily stalled in the Senate. Facing GOP defections and intense public opposition, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded he may not have the votes to do it.

Democrats are wasting no time using this window of opportunity to change the national dialogue on the future of health care, as exemplified by Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.

McCaskill, who a month ago publicly shamed the Senate Finance Committee for holding no hearings and excluding Democrats from the health care working group, just held a town hall in Macon, in which she not only expressed confidence the Senate repeal bill would fail, but also advocated expanding Obamacare with a public option.

"I was against it at the time. So I think I made a mistake on that," she said.

This is not the first time this week McCaskill has signaled this shift. She made the same comment at another town hall on Wednesday:

While McCaskill has always personally favored a public option, she accepted its removal from Obamacare as a compromise during its original passage, and long expressed doubts about its political viability. Her new endorsement of the policy, at a forum in a county Trump won by 56 points, signals a national shift.

McCaskill is not alone. All over the country, there are signs of increasing political momentum for a public option.

In Nevada, the state legislature passed a bill that would have essentially converted Medicaid into a public option, by letting people in the health insurance exchanges buy into it. Only a veto from Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval stopped it from becoming law.

Now that Republicans have proved their inability to lead on health care policy, it is time for Democrats to show that they hear the concerns of the American people and have their own progressive alternatives. McCaskill's push for a public option marks the start of that conversation.