In the comments reacting to the post, the big question surrounds Owens and his position on the public option. Obviously, the public option is a huge issue among progressives and the netroots. It is also a question that, in Owens’ case, does not have a clear cut response.
On August 11, Owens was profiled for PolitickerNY. He was called the “DCCC-approved non-Democrat” and was asked a few different questions. It was then that this was said about his position on health care:
Owens took a decidedly moderate line on health care restructuring, saying he does not support a public option available to anyone–the crux of the restructuring put forward by President Obama. He said some health plans in Congress not longer include the idea of a public option. This stance is gaining some traction in the Senate.
“It changes every day, the various iterations,” Owens told me. “The bill that I would vote for would have a couple of elements to it. It would cover the uninsured, it would eliminate the ability to exclude for a pre-existing condition, and also that focuses on cost-reduction.”
At the time, Owens was just picked to be the Democratic candidate and little was known about him.
(As an aside, I would like to add this from the other finalists for the nomination:
“I’m with the president; I think there should be a public option,” John Sullivan, the former mayor of Oswego, told me before Owens was selected. “I’m not a Blue Dog Democrat, let me put it that way. At least in terms of health care.”
Brian McGrath, a Manhattan attorney who grew up in the district, was more cautious, saying that he supported the idea, but that “you have to look at the public option and how it has to be structured.”
The reason I bring this up is that it has been said that Owens was the only one of the finalists to oppose a public option. On the surface, that is true. But McGrath saying that you have look at it and how it is structured certainly got my attention just as Owens and his position did.)
After President Barack Obama gave his health care address to Congress, all three candidates in NY-23 provided updates on where they stand when it comes to health care reform. Owens gave a different perspective on health care than in the past.
Owens, who told me the night he was nominated that he did not support a public option, said that it was, as a component of an insurance exchange, something he “would look very carefully at; they seem reasonable as principles.”
“My view is that there are a couple of principles that have to be adhered to in coming to a resolution of the health care issue,” Owens told me. “I’m not in favor of a litmus test because I think that’s one of the big problems in Washington today. I think we need to be able to analyze the bills and make a rational decision about it in line with the principals in the bill.
“As long as they meet the four criteria that I laid out, those are things that I would consider,” he said. “Again, I don’t want to apply a litmus test, I don’t want to apply a label. I want to be able to analyze the information and the bill and come to a conclusion.”
(His four criteria are that any bill not add to the deficit or “place burdens on small businesses,” bring down insurance costs, provide access to coverage for those without insurance, and ensure those with pre-existing conditions are insured. Owens has said this before, but it’s not on his web site, which provides no information about his biography or positions.)
His response to the question about the public option (which, this time, he was actually quoted on) was, just to repeat, something he “would look very carefully at; they seem reasonable as principles.”
Owens’ approach to health care reform includes a lot of key elements. He believes in controlling costs for the middle-class and supports providing access to affordable health care coverage to every American.
This is the full list of what he supports:
· Supports: Controlling health care costs for the middle class.
· Supports: Providing access to affordable health insurance for every American.
· Supports: Preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to anybody based on previous existing conditions and bans caps on lifetime coverage.
· Supports: Giving small business and individuals access to the lowest rates available to federal employees and large corporations.
· Supports: Allowing anybody to keep their existing coverage.
· Supports: Using profits from repayment of TARP funds, allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, increased efficiency in our health care system (like putting all health care records on-line and requiring insurance companies to accept payment on-line), and cutting special interest tax loopholes (like tax benefits for companies that offshore jobs) to help pay for health care reform.
· Supports: Allowing states to use savings from elimination of uncompensated care costs (Over $100 billion annually) to reduce taxes. In New York this would help prevent property tax increases.
There are three things Owens is opposed to: Cuts to Medicare, taxing health care benefits and increasing the taxes on the middle class.
Back to the public option. It is necessary for Owens to be clear about his position. He first said he opposed it, then a month later, seemed to leave the door open for it.
So for those saying he opposes it, I would hold off on those charges.