Wagner defends Deeds on Public Option
From almost the moment the words came out of Sen. Creigh Deeds‘ mouth last night during the final gubernatorial debate, a cry went out across cyberspace from Democrats angry that their candidate would even consider opting out of the public option, if it were to pass in Washington.
The public option is a very controversial aspect of the Obama administration’s efforts to reform health care, but for some hard core Democrats, who have been waiting for the opportunity to enact what they view as real health care reform, it is an “all or nothing” proposition. Last night, Deeds clearly indicated that he was not among those who view the public option as the only avenue to real health care reform and left open the possibility that if the plan passes and raises costs for Virginians he would consider finding a way for the state to “opt out”.
I spoke today to Jody Wagner, the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor and the wife of a physician. Wagner told me that she did not see Sen. Deeds’ comments and did not have the chance to talk to him about the issue, but she is sure that her views are not far from her ticket-mate. “If the public option passes and the President signs it, I think that we should take part,” said Wagner, but then she added, “as long as it doesn’t result in higher taxes for Virginians and is revenue neutral.”
Wagner said that it is difficult to agree to a “public option only” platform, because there is no clear definition as to what exactly what the public option is. She said though that she couldn’t imagine a scenario where the Barack Obama led Federal Government would pass a health care reform package that included a public option, that wasn’t good for Virginia. However, she left open the possibility that if for some reason they did, Virginia could back out.
“Asking me to say, I categorically under all circumstances, would support it is tough because It depends on whether it is going to cost Virginia taxpayers more, whether it is going to be affordable for the state, whether it accomplishes the goals of increasing access,” said Wagner. “It is sort of theoretical.” Her comments to me, seem a bit different from what she told liberal blogger Ben Tribbett, according to a post on his popular NotLarrySabato blog, where Tribbett claims that she committed “unequivocally that she would fight any attempt to “opt out” of a federal health insurance option.”
Despite the parsing of her exact stance on the public option, Wagner pointed out that where she and Sen. Deeds stand is a far cry from where her opponent Bill Bolling and his ticket-mate Bob McDonnell stand. Wagner accused the incumbent Bolling of being a pawn of the insurance industry, not interested in doing anything to help drive down the cost of health care. (Bolling works in the insurance industry, but is not a licensed to sell health insurance. The position of Lt. Governor is only a part time job.)
“Bill Bolling is a health insurance executive and he comes at this entirely differently than I do, he comes at it from the perspective of protecting insurance companies,” Wagner said. “He spent his legislative career doing that. If you look at his Senate votes he voted against the patient’s bill of rights which meant voting in favor of requiring coverage of pre-existing conditions, against requiring access to a specialist against allowing someone who is very ill having a specialist as their primary care physician and against being able to sue an insurance company for negligence if you know, they cause harm to a patient.”
The Bolling campaign responded to the Wagner charges in this prepared statement from Campaign Manager Matt Wells:
“Lieutenant Governor Bolling disagrees strongly with Ms. Wagner on the so called Public Option. He does not support turning our health care delivery system over to the federal government because he knows this will lead to higher taxes and take health care decisions out of the hands of patients and turn them over to federal bureaucrats. It is unfortunate that Ms. Wagner has chosen to turn her back on the people of Virginia on this very important issue to stand with Nancy Pelosi and other high-tax, big-spending Washington liberals, but that doesn’t surprise us a bit.
As far as Ms. Wagner’s other comments are concerned, they are just more of the same kind of lies that Ms. Wagner has been telling about Lieutenant Governor Bolling throughout this entire campaign. Lieutenant Governor Bolling is not a health insurance executive and he is not employed by a health insurance company. The Lieutenant Governor is not even licensed to sell health insurance. He is an independent insurance agent who sells property and casualty insurance, not health insurance. He represents his clients and protects their interests, not insurance companies. Ms. Wagner just can’t seem to get any of the facts in this campaign right.”
Audio clips from conversation with Jody Wagner can be found below: