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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="'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. Greg

    Was the information provided by the congressional budget office "misinformation"?

    Democrats want to try and blame everything on the crazy right wingers but they never seem to want to talk about the congressional budget office's findings regarding the likely effects of the Democrats' version of healthcare on our country's financial well-being.

    August 21, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  2. Chris in MI

    Traumatized? Pissed, is more like it. We want Health Care Reform passed NOW! I'm sick of these do-nothing Republicans criticizing instead of coming to the table or offering ideas of their own. I haven't heard one idea from them, other than their scare tactics, which intelligent Americans will not fall for!

    August 21, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  3. Larry

    Dear Senator Nelson ...

    I assure you, the intelligent people in this country are neither Traumatized or gripped by fears and anxieties

    For the intelligent people of this country clearly understand the workings in Washington by our elected officials

    We know who The Party Of NO represent, and it isn't the American people

    The Party Of NO, represent themselves, money, and anyone that puts money or power in their pockets

    The only Americans that might be somewhat Traumatized are the same 37% that support people like Sarah Palin, or the Republican party during each election

    Like I said, the intelligent 63% know whats going on

    August 21, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  4. Jake

    America traumatized by health care debate?

    Try, America traumatized by not being able to afford health care!

    Keep the debate strong and reform the system!

    August 21, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  5. Penn Voter

    traumatized by the debate ? is that a medical diagnosis? Can we get coverage for that illness or was it a prexisting condition resulting from the 3 years of campaign leading up to this situation?

    August 21, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  6. 60's survivor

    pretend trauma!!!

    August 21, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  7. joe

    Nelson hit it on the head. 80% of Americans are happy with their health care insurance. Tort reform is a key component that needs to be part of any reform. Since

    August 21, 2009 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  8. Bill in California

    FACT: The majority of Americans (80%) are content with their health care as it is.
    FICTION: That Americans are crying out for government run health care.

    August 21, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  9. John Black Hills/SD

    It's the democrats who are to blame for "some" Americans being confused. I can say one word that will clarify 90% of those with questions. That one word is...."read". I know that during the Bush administration the White House website was outlined in crayons, but believe it or not, President Obama understands the purpose of informational web-links that will direct you to the information you want, and need. If Democrats want to calm the population, speak with one voice, if you can't do that, your in the wrong job. Americans should reconsider pushing for term limits. There are 300,000,000 Americans, there are lots of smart Americans who understand what it means to work for a living. They'll do a better job.

    August 21, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  10. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    WHICH Americans are so traumatized?

    I have talked with lots of people, both those with and without medical insurance. I don't see anyone "traumatized."

    This is part media and part Congress talking.

    Basically, those who ain't got health insurance want it, and those who have it don't want anyone else to get any.

    Good Christian nation that we are.............

    August 21, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  11. stormerF

    Americans are Traumatized by the amount of money the Obama Administration is spending and now they want to spend 2 trillion more so some low life can have free health care?
    What will be next ,maybe we should provide them free car insurance and then a gas card paid for by the American Tax Payer?
    Obama needs to focus on jobs for Americans,and stop trying to force government run health care of the American People.

    August 21, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  12. Lexie

    Just what Republicans were looking for!!

    August 21, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  13. Steve (the real one)

    The Senator is correct. People are concern about:
    1. The fanatical rush to push this through, who is really reading this. This is not going to be a good idea or a great suggestion... It wil be LAW!
    2. There are several drafts in the House, no one knows which one is tossed around at these town halls
    3. The cost, CBO says it will add to the defict, the President says no it won't. Who do we believe?
    4. More government intrusion..Amtrak, the post office, social security, Medicare/Medicaid are held up as shining examples (well maybe not Amtrak) of goverment programs that work. Each one of these programs have major problems as they are going broke. No one likes the idea of the government stepping in between the patient and their doctors
    5. Canada, the UK, France and Germany are held up as the standard yet no talk about what the people there are paying in tax rates!

    My suggestion: Stop the full court press! Study this and study it hard because when slowed down Congress may not like what they see!

    August 21, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  14. Ellen

    Amnericans are soooo gullible. We believe everything and anything the Republicans tell us.

    August 21, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  15. Tom

    No Ben, we're traumatized by a poorly thought out plan, attempts to rush a bill through, and no attention given to the needs of ALL Americans.

    August 21, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  16. Reformed Republican

    Just say thanks to the rethuglicons for lying about EVERYTHING that deals with health care reform. They ooze puss like an infected sore everytime they open their mouths.

    Remember, it's the GOPs stated goal to "ruin" Obama at any and all costs regardless of how many of us die because we don't have or can't afford health care...

    August 21, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  17. Barb

    Look north my friends.... the Canadian Health Care system is alive and well... – no boogy men here... no bancrupt families from health care bills... better life expectancy... better outcomes.. lower cost per person.. Look it up.. just google World Health Organization.

    Have you all myopia?

    August 21, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  18. LK..just wondering...

    What?? Has FOX gone and bought CNN? Why are every one of your articles of a negative tone against Obama??? What is going on? Was there a secret merger last night where FOX bought the souls of all of the CNNers?????

    August 21, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  19. FD

    This whole idea of health care reform has been a circus. Nobody can explain the bills because there are several different ones. And our leaders are flip-flopping. There were no "death panels" but we just removed " death panels." Nobody can find a nationalized plan that has been successful. When I listen to the Canadians and the Europeans, I am not impressed. I am afraid I will lose what I have worked for all of my life. I am afraid we will trade our system with its problems for something that will be much worse. I do not trust the government whether democrat or republican. It is time our leaders balance the budget and talk about spending later when there is a surplus.

    August 21, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |

    Bi-partisan my butt. Take this six-person committee and shove it where the sun don't shine.

    August 21, 2009 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  21. john Naples

    give me a break sen, nelson! my circle of friends are not "traumatized" by the health care debate. the only ones appearing traumatized are the few hundred crazies who show up at town halls with guns, waving koran's and shouting communist over and over again. sen. you have it all wrong. the majority of americans want a public option. we are not interested in half-ass legislation. we want what will be the best option and clearly the public option is just that. sen. its time to man up. you gonna do what is right, just and moral or are you gonna cave to special interest? you pick!

    August 21, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  22. lovable liberal

    Well, here's a guy who stands for nothing.

    August 21, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  23. They call me "Tater Salad"

    It's because most people are all too willing to listen to what somebody else tells them, rather than doing some actual fact finding on their own and making up their own minds! Thats the problem! I call these kinda people SHEEP!!!!

    August 21, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  24. A Republican

    The fat cats making millions by turning down health care claims are laughing all the way to the bank. They know Americans are too stupid to realize the health care insurance companies are milking the country dry.

    August 21, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  25. A Republican

    I wonder how much this guy stands to make from his buddies who work for the health insurance industry

    August 21, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
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