August 21st, 2009
05:54 PM ET
5 years ago

America 'traumatized' by health-care debate, key Democrat says

'I am ... trying to help people understand the difference between fact and fiction coming out of Washington,' Nelson said.
'I am ... trying to help people understand the difference between fact and fiction coming out of Washington,' Nelson said.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Americans are gripped by "an awful lot of concern, fear, anxiety" and "frustration" in the health-care debate, a key Senate Democrat warned Friday.

The description of an increasingly nervous national mood illustrates the growing challenge facing President Barack Obama and supporters of health-care reform as Congress prepares to return in less than three weeks.

"I think America has been traumatized by the debate," Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a moderate Democrat, said on the CNN Radio show "44" with Ed Henry.

Nelson, considered a critical swing vote in the Senate, bemoaned what he called the "misinformation" and "misunderstanding" that has characterized so much of the debate. He highlighted the confusion over a provision in the House version of the health-care bill that includes coverage of end-of-life counseling for Medicare beneficiaries who want it.


The provision - which opponents claim would create federal "death panels" to discourage care for the sick and elderly - was recently dropped by Senate negotiators.

"I am ... trying to help people understand the difference between fact and fiction coming out of Washington," Nelson said.

Nelson, whose traditionally conservative state voted against Obama last year, was non-committal on what may be the most politically explosive question of all: whether there should be a government-funded public health insurance option to compete with private insurers.

"If the public option is not in the ... position where it could destabilize the insurance that currently 200 million Americans have, that
certainly makes it more palatable," he said. "... (But it's) hard to sign onto anything until you've seen everything."

One of the top Senate negotiators, Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, has insisted that a public health option cannot get the 60 votes required to overcome a Senate filibuster. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, asserted Thursday that a bill cannot pass the House of Representatives if it does not include a public option.

The public option has been cleared by three committees in the House as well as by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

But a bipartisan group of six negotiators on the Senate Finance Committee - the last committee that needs to clear health-care legislation before it can be taken up on the Senate floor - is currently considering dropping a public option in favor of non-profit cooperatives that would negotiate collective polices for members.

Nelson said he is "at least neutral" and "not negative" toward the idea.

Some top Democrats have responded in recent days by hinting that they may instead try to short-circuit the traditional Senate legislative process by passing a health-care bill through an obscure tactic known as reconciliation, a type of budget maneuver that requires only a simple majority - 51 votes - to pass.

Such a maneuver would boost the prospects for Senate passage of a public health option. But Republicans have equated such a move to legislative warfare.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated Friday that the president remains committed to crafting a bipartisan bill.


Filed under: Ben Nelson • Health care
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. J.P.

    Look, Dems, there is already socialized rationed medicine offered in a bevy of countries.

    Please feel free to relocate to them... but don't hold a gun to my head (and paycheck!) and insist I pay for your healthcare.

    August 21, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  2. Deuce

    How do I give CNN: a none biased opinion. When your so biased yourselves.

    August 21, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  3. lockeanddemosthenes

    Last night Jon Stewart had a heated interview with Betsey McCaughey – the woman who started the "death panel" rumors (though she never actually used the phrase herself). Though they were both civil, there are some key points he brings up. The provision was for "life sustaining processes". That's the opposite of a death panel.

    The Republicans did what they were supposed to and rattled America's cage. It scared away those who weren't sure and made many who were start to question. Now it's time for a resolution, so we can begin making progress on this reform and the dozens of other issues plaguing our country and world.

    August 21, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  4. Dean in PA

    Yup... let's hear it once again for the outright lying conservatives who only know how to propagate fear and twist the truth until it's unrecognizable. And let's hear it for all the incredibly stupid people out there who believe them.... death panels, indeed.... are all of you that moronic that you buy this crap??????

    August 21, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  5. Commen Sense Reality Check

    There is nothing traumatizing about the debate! This is what America and our Democracy is all about ~ debate. Talk about the issues instead of being dictated as to what has to happen. And, if this health care proposal is so great, why aren't our congressmen and president included in it????

    August 21, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  6. Deuce

    Trauma? What does that mean??? Your demands? or mine?

    You really do scare me. Ha. ha. haaaaaaaaaah.

    Your dead. Me? I have met so many idiots just like you. Boo!!

    August 21, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  7. 60's survivor

    there is no trauma!! just rhetoric. you either want health care coverage available to all at reasonable costs or you want to keep the status qou for whatever reasons?????

    August 21, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  8. Carlos

    The 51 that vote for"reconciliation" will need a new job in a real tough job market in 2010.

    August 21, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  9. donttreadonme

    Let's admitt the truth the anxiety was caused by an over the top stimulus followed up by Obama trying to ram a Government Option through congress.

    Most conservatives know the issues better than you give us credit!

    August 21, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  10. Billy J Texas

    Do what it takes. Get the public option in. Stop letting Wall Street, Bankers and Insurance execs suck what is left of the middle class dry.

    August 21, 2009 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  11. Anthony

    Shock and Awe... spread lies, fears, and division. The Right has perfected manipulating the masses to the point that they are convinced up is down and down is up. The people dont matter. Theyre led to believe whats good for them is bad, by people who could care less about their well being. This is a sad era in American history... fighting 3 wars... Iraq, Afghanistan, and a war against the psyche of its own people.

    August 21, 2009 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  12. jfs Memhis, Tn

    He couldn't be more correct. The need for national health care and a government option has been overshadowed by fear, lack of facts, and absolute fear mongering. CNN you folks are adding wood to the fire with your rather conservative and SCARY HEADLINES that report this VERY important issue with a spin that is much to the right. You folks are as bad as FOX !!! We all expected MUCH, MUCH better from your organization. Lou Dobbs is the very WORST !!!! He's about a much an independent as I am a martian.

    August 21, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  13. the real Mike in MN

    We spend almost twice as much as any other country in the world on health care and yet we rank 37th in the world. We rank lower than any other developed country when it comes to things like infant mortality and life expectancy. We spend 18% of our GDP every year on health care where as countries like England spend 8%. A million people a year are loosing their homes due to bankruptcy caused by outrageous medical bills. Thousands of people die each year because they wait to go to the doctor until it's too late because they can't afford to go. Insurance companies make money from denying our claims or dropping us so that they never have to pay out, and then good luck trying to get new insurance if you have a preexisting condition. Our system works for those who can afford it, but it fails the millions with no insurance, those who are under insured, or those who have insurance but still can't afford to go to the doctor.

    August 21, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  14. frank

    I just don't understand all Law make, Senator, Rep. including President not even read the Bill completed before Vote. Why so Rush? Each every one well education buet why all of you vote with out known anything inside. This is very importand for American Citizen. We are hire all of you to protected Us but the way doing like this is the Shamed. Like Hillary Clinton said " Shammed on you OB...."

    August 21, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  15. Deuce

    I wonder who pays his wages... Could it be Obama???

    August 21, 2009 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  16. malclave

    But the Democrats have the means to avoid this trauma.

    They have a solid majority in the House, and enough votes in the Senate to stop a filibuster. We already know for a fact that Democrats ignore their constituents, so they can pass whatever bill they want.

    August 21, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  17. Voted4HealthCare

    It is no wonder there is such trauma when my former GOP is telling such ridiculous lies about health-care reforms. Their actions have been absolutely deplorable.

    Americans voted for health care this past election, and the Senate Finance Commiittee needs to uphold their elected duties by passing a bill with a public option, which is supported by the majority of Americans.

    Conrad and Baucus need to stop the corporate nonsense and follow the will of the voters in this country. The GOP has NO intention on voting for any bill, as evident by their absurd claim now of 80 votes somehow being needed to pass legislation. Read the Constitution. That is another GOP attempt at deception and obstruction. Enough.

    Americans want health-care reforms now. The Senate Finanace should be able to pass the same bill as the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which included other conservative Dems and a reasonable public option.

    August 21, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  18. GET SOME BACKBONE OBAMA...

    The only thing we are tramatized about Sen. Nelson, is whether you dim wits in the Senate will pass a bill that has the public option in it. We are tramatized because you jack asses aren't supporting our President who promised a bill with public option in it.. Your all so interested in apeezing the republicans who could care less about whether the people have a good health care plan or not....
    Just get togeather and put forth a good bill and we won't have to worry about whether your going to get re elected or not .. SUPPORT OUR PRESIDENT......

    August 21, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  19. U.S. Citizen

    Foreign IT workers have more rights than a U.S. Citizen;thus, the same people spreading lies about health care reform are sending jobs to India, China,..................... Lets get the greedy outsourcing CORPORATIONS away from Health Care Reform!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 21, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  20. Kevin in Ohio

    Its not the debate that has traumatized us, Sen.Nelson. Its the politicians that are seeking to force this bill down our throats... without listening to any reason whatsoever and without even reading and understanding the bill. Oh, and I forgot.... not even a clue as to how to pay for it! For all our concerns, we have been called angry mobs and Nazis. Even though our protests have been MUCH more civil than those of Code Pink, MoveOn.org, ACORN, and left-wing students at Columbia and Chapel Hill.

    August 21, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  21. Peter E

    'Blue Colar democrat' is just a code word for 'been bribed by health corporations.'

    August 21, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  22. AstroTurf This

    The majority of the Americans who voted for Obama truly believed that once the Democrats had the house, the senate and white house that they would shut up and stop hating, attacking, and blaming. It hasn't. Now they make things up to attack the Republicans for and attack eachother. The DNC is the party of HATE. People are sick of it. The promises of bipartisanship were a joke. There is no compromise or even an attempt to meet in the middle to solve our problems. It's all or nothing and if you don't agree with the far left you're the devil. This will ultimately be the Democrats greatest mistake. This presidency is headed for a Jimmy Carter repeat.

    August 21, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  23. ran

    A simple solution is:single payer non-profit universal health care.

    I just received a refund from my co-op utility company. I could have gotten one from a non-profit co-op insurance company if I had that option.

    People do not let you health be up for profit. Demand a single payer non-profit universal health care. With a non-profit your money goes to you health care not toward multimillion $ salaries/bonuses to insurance executives or for dividend to shareholders, trying to make money off your health, or for insurance companies' private jets.

    Again I just received a refund from my utility co-op.

    August 21, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  24. cedgar

    Oh and for you die hard wanting government health care go to a
    VA clinic. Please remember you have no recourse, after all this is the
    government. For my family NO thanks been there done that.

    August 21, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  25. LacrosseMom

    No sir, we are not "traumatized" by the healthcare debate.

    AMERICA IS TRAUMATIZED BY THE LIES & FEAR MONGERING BEING DONE BY THE GOP & HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY!

    August 21, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
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