Moveon Gwinnett Hosts Johnny Isakson Puppet Show

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A group of health reform advocates on Tuesday brought attention to Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R-Ga.) opposition to the public option and his wealth of health industry campaign contributions.

Records reveal Johnny Isakson has taken over $946,000 from individuals and PACs associated with the health industry over the course of his political career.

“We question his objectivity, we wonder about his motivations in opposing the public option,” Steve Toggerson, organizer with MoveOnGwinnett.org, told APN during a rally in Norcross. ‘We feel he ought to be concerned about the interests of his constituents rather than his donors.”

Read more about health industry donations to Congress.

Isakson, the fifth ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, voted against the HELP Committee’s bill, which contains a public option, on July 15.

“I agree we must look for solutions to alleviate the financial burden of health care and find ways to provide affordable health care to individuals who lack access to insurance,” Isakson said in a release after the vote. “However, this bill will not do any of those things. It will only drive up the cost of health care and decrease patient choice. I cannot support legislation that will put a government bureaucrat between a patient and his doctor.”

Speaking before the Macon Lions Club in August, Isakson equated the public option with single-payer health care.

“You won’t have a total single-payer health plan the first year,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time until [the competition] evaporates.”

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday reveals 57 percent of Americans support a public insurance option, up from 52 percent in mid-August. A CBS News poll reveals 62 percent favor the public option.

“We believe the public option is the way to resolve the spiraling costs [of healthcare],” Toggerson said. “It will help keep the costs down through competition. How can Isakson be against competition?”

Wendell Potter, former vice president of communications for CIGNA, argued in favor of a public option before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Sept. 15.

“If [Congress] fails to create a public insurance option to compete with private insurers, the bill it sends to the president might as well be called the Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act,” Potter said.

Potter argued the public option is not something to be feared.

“Contrary to the misinformation being disseminated by the health insurance industry and its allies, the public insurance option would not have a competitive advantage over private plans,” Potter said. “It would have to meet the same benefit requirements and comply with the same insurance market reforms as private plans.”

The issue is far from settled but there are signs of life for the public option, from House leadership standing behind it to bills from four of five key Senate committees containing the option.

“We’d like to see something passed this year,” Toggerson told APN. “We’re hopeful the public option will be a part of the final healthcare reform.”

The Gwinnett County contingent is a new local chapter of MoveOn.org, gathering for the first time in June.

“We’re new but we’re trying to make a splash on the scene,” Toggerson said.

Tuesday’s event attracted a modest crowd of 12 but more than a few drivers traveling past the group on Indian Trail Road gave supportive honks.

Toggerson raised the possibility that MoveOnGwinnett could team up with other local chapters around Metro Atlanta in the near future for another event.

“We want Johnny Isakson to know that we in Gwinnett care and we are appalled,” Toggerson said.

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