LAS VEGAS – Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said Saturday that serious deficit hawks ought to get behind a new "robust" public option bill that she and more than a hundred other members introduced days ago.


In an interview with Raw Story at the Netroots Nation conference, Schakowsky predicted that a new "focus on deficit reduction" and rising public distrust of the insurance industry would generate stronger support for it among members of Congress.

"We've seen the cost [savings], and we've seen the behavior of the insurance companies," she said. "I think that really puts a new atmosphere on the prospects for a new public option."

Unveiled last Thursday by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Schakowsky, and more than 120 co-sponsors, the measure would give consumers a choice between private and public health insurance plans in the new law's exchanges. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that it would cut the deficit by $68 billion between 2014 an 2020.

How would it save that much money? "It would compete with insurance companies, who frankly would have to lower their rates," Schakowsky said, promising that it would force private insurers to "be more efficient."

Progressives were disheartened with -- but still largely supported -- the resulting health care law enacted in March, which didn't offer public insurance programs to consumers ineligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Even a public option was viewed as a raw deal by liberals, who wanted a single payer system, as exists in Canada and Britain.

"This is kind of a compromise from that, saying, at least make [government-run insurance] one of the choices," explained the Democratic Congresswoman. The American people, she added, "overwhelmingly" support it.

Republicans and conservative Democrats derided the public option as just another government program, invoking widespread distrust for government as a reason for their opposition. Their other opposing arguments, given consistent CBO projections that it would save money, were mostly without empirical backing.

The House health care bill approved in November contained a public plan, and one day after it was stripped from the Senate version in December, a CBS poll found that six in ten Americans backed the concept.

A member of the progressive caucus, Schakowsky was a vocal supporter of a robust public plan tied to Medicare rates during the lengthy health care debate, but considered the resulting legislation strong enough to vote for nonetheless.