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State senator pressing for "competitive public product"

By O. KAY HENDERSON
June 20, 2009
Radio Iowa

A state senator who was in the nation's capital this week to lobby for health care reform says it's time for a "competitive public product" to give Americans a more affordable alternative to private health insurance.

Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, was among a small group of state legislators who met with White House officials on Wednesday.

"The impression I got from the meeting at the White House is that the president and his team are very serious about bringing about real reform that provides more choice for consumers, controls costs and reduces costs, especially with the development of a public insurance plan," Bolkcom says.

Congressional negotiations on a reform plan seemed to hit a stumbling block this week. Bolkcom says that's understandable.

"I don't think anybody thought that this was going to be easy to take on all these powerful interests that we have in the health care arena, and I think the fight's just beginning," Bolkcom says. "And I am hopeful that the president is going to be up for making the strongest case possible to reform the system."

Republicans have expressed opposition to creating a government health insurance plan for Americans who don't currently have insurance. But Bolkcom, a Democrat, says that "public option" is necessary if the reform plan is succeed because states can't go it alone.

"I think our experience in Iowa has shown that we can work to insure kids because it's a manageable number of youngsters who don't have insurance in Iowa, but when you talk about trying to get coverage for adults and you talk about trying to control costs, it becomes extremely difficult for any one state to get their hands around that," Bolkcom says. "And so we basically felt that a national public health insurance option would be the best way to try and make sure that Iowans can try to get coverage."

Bolkcom is also on the board of directors for the "Progressive States Network" and he attended board meetings Thursday and Friday in D.C. He says they discussed how that group could help push for health care reform.