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. Tony in Maine

    Ben Nelson is a conservative, not a moderate, Democrat. He is socially and economically from the same mold as southern Democrats.

    There is room in the Democratic Party for these people and I would not want to see the sort of lock-step discipline the Republicans have – at least not while fashioning a bill. Once the bill has been written, Nelson and other Blue Dogs need to fall into line lest everything be lost to the conservative Republican ideology that has disgraced the nation these past thirty years.

    August 21, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  2. diridi

    it is not trauma, it is needed and necessity....ok...It is the time now to fix the health care reform with public option....just do not listen and interview this idiot Mitt Rumny...this guy is a biggest not talk any all....

    August 21, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  3. Enough

    We should be fearful and concerned, they are out to destroy health care and then try to work out the details later!! Slow them down, it's a matter of life and death.

    August 21, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  4. MCD, SF, CA

    I'm not the least bit confused... I don't think that most people are... I think there have been a lot really vocal people who are against any reform and they present the appearance of a large anti-reform movement when in reality.... it is very small. (don't tell me about polls... it all depends on how you word the questions)

    I want a public, not -for-profit option! I don't want to give what little money I have to business execs who are then paid (from my money) millions in bonuses.

    Also, in the middle of all this.... One massive health ins company (won't name names) tried to get permission to raise rates as much as 56%... fortunately, the state regulators in question said no to that but did allow a 22% increase.

    August 21, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  5. JK Ashburn, VA

    The nervous mood belongs to Ben Nelson. Hey, Ben - if all of the bad publicity is inaccurate, then you should do the right thing and vote for it regardless of what the folks in Nebraska think. Oh wait, you don't have spine so you wouldn't do that. Sorry, I forgot.

    August 21, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  6. in Oregon

    Yes, sir, I am traumatized! By:

    -people bringing guns to town halls meeting
    -folks holding up pictures of Obama defaced to look like Hitler
    -people making up nonsense about "death squads" or whatever
    -those who want to deny healthcare to others
    -mercenaries paid by the health"care" industry to spread lies and disinformation

    I am very traumatized by the fact that we can't even have a civil discussion in the country that I love.

    August 21, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  7. Gary

    Americans are traumatized by a single party (Democrats) trying to rush and force through healthcare reform that no one wants. They pressure the Blue Dog Democrats and won't even talk with the Republicans.....If you want reform then try this:

    1. Serious Malpractice Reform.
    2. Train more Doctors/nurses/physical therapists.
    3. Shorten the patent life on new drugs by 2 years.
    4. Make it illegal for insurance companies to ask about preconditions.

    Stop raising taxes! Stop trying to get a government option! Stop supporting abortion with tax dollars! Stop trying to give free healthcare to people who refuse to work! Stop borrowing money from our children and grandchildren to pay for our healthcare today! Stop the nonsense and you'll put our minds at easy....

    August 21, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  8. S Callahan New York

    'Traumatized'???? Bad word choice.

    American's see the bigger picture and are right to be concern....we have huge deficits; current Government run health programs that are inefficent, and a drain to the local counties and State budgets. In addtion, there is absolute confusion coming from the top....those that would be responsible for voting on the bills to make National Health care law...they hardly understand most elements themselves. For gosh sake , CNN editors have a better handle of the ideas floated around than the politico. I think it's more like the politico is traumatized that they are getting a response from the voters, and a big response as it is.

    August 21, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  9. annie for Palin

    The only thing traumatizing the REAL AMERICAN CITIZENS is the total lack of competency, morals and honesty in our federal government.

    August 21, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  10. Rob

    I'm tired of all these politicians calling it "misinformation". I don't care what the writers of this bills intent was, it was written in such a way that the interpretation can be so broad and there is too much room for it to be misused by government agencies.

    August 21, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  11. gail

    Senator, I am not traumatized by the debate about healthcare insurance reform. I am traumatized by people like you that have lost perspective on what this is about. It is about the people that can't afford healthcare,have lost their healthcare, are afraid of losing their healthcare because pre existing conditions that will not allow them to be covered. We are traumatized by the lies that the media has not only failed to call lies , but how they have covered them to make it seem that they are truth. We are traumatized by Democrats like you that are covering your political behinds and not giving a flying fig about those of us that need help. You are against a government run option , so Senator please give up yours. I pay for you healthcare and I am the government. What a hypocrite you are!

    August 21, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  12. D. D.

    So many Americans never saw President Obama as really becoming the President. These town halls give these people a chance to scream and holler while using the Health Care as their store front of shock "in their life time".. There are so many ctizens that can not believe this President succeded..They thought at many intersections he had been ran off the road and yet he turned right and proceeded all the was to Washington to the honorable White House.
    Sometimes we hide behind things like little children regradless of our ages.

    August 21, 2009 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  13. Concerned in North Carolina


    August 21, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |

    That's because the Republican FEAR MACHINE is working overtime. They can't argue on the merits so they fall back on their doomsday strategy no matter what the topic. NOT THIS TIME. The old "my way or you will die" message has been trotted out too many times. Health care must change – we can't afford the status quo.

    August 21, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  15. John, Brooklyn, NY

    Sadly, Ben Nelson has contributed to the terrible anxiety that the nation is experiencing by failing to support the Obama administration's efforts to cut through the intentional lies and misinformation being distributed by the Republicans, their allies, and the insurance industry lobby (and exposed by CNN's truth squad).

    August 21, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  16. tcaudilllg

    I'm tired of this. Looks like CNN is pulling the same pro-Republican crap it did during Obama's election. I wonder what kind of "special notices" their producers have been getting lately. I'd like to see a leak, because the more sensible among CNN's commentators seem to be feeling they are fighting an uphill battle to get the message out in spite of "trouble" from. Let me be clear: if we can't get the public option through Congress, then it will behoove us to find better congressional candidates in the next election, starting in May. Nor will we brook massive defections to the Republicans - not this time.

    Now how did I respond to CNN's blatant bias for McCain in 2008? Ah yes I remember: I watched MSNBC instead. So I'm going over to MSNBC, now.

    August 21, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  17. Rick

    How can Mr. Nelson possibly explain the difference between fact and fiction coming out of washington. Over 1,000 pages of legislation – quickly and poorly written, and subject to significant interpretation. Give me a break – noone can predict how any of that legislation will actually be implemented.

    August 21, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  18. jennifer

    The Democrats don't want to hear it, but Obama is a big part of the problem. The Wall Street Journal has a good article today about Obama contradicting himself in his town hall meetings. I want real details about this bill and/or any versions of it. I lost trust when they tried to rush it through before the August recess.

    August 21, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  19. Texas Teacher

    The problem with the majority of our dear politicians out there in D.C. is that they are all in the pockets of the Medical Industry! They have no reason whatsoever to change the status quo unless we the people start thinking for ourselves and letting them know that we don't want anymore of their Bull Sh... ! We voted for Obama because we wanted the changes that he promised! Now the media and Limbaugh and the whole medical industry is blowing us full of smoke... and most of us are falling for it!

    Nothing will get done until people stop listening to the propaganda from all sides... including the media... and think for themselves! We need health care reform... the present system is only making the rich richer and the poor poorer! Get off your backsides and turn off the TV and radio....Rush will still be there after you have thought about this issue yourself... if you can't make a logical decision without his sage advice! Get on your computers and check out this mess for what it is.... a political MESS that will not change until we put their elections on the line! Either get off the pot and serve the people who voted for you... or get ready to discover that your gravy boat floated down the river without you!

    August 21, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  20. Pa mom

    Citizens are traumatized by the actions of both parties. Mud slinging has become a part of our daily lives all year long whether it be TV, you tube or radio. I am sick of the blame game. More importantly, the dems have polarized this country over the past several years making people angry at each other because of your use of the term the"the haves and have nots", turning it all back on corporate america and giving people the right to entitlement. That is unhealthy...this is america where we all have the right to become whatever we want and earn what we want. All you have to do is work!

    August 21, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  21. HUGO

    Fear and anxiety would not quite adequately describe what I am hearing form others and feel personally. I think Pissed off, disgusted and serious anger at the left wing of the Democratic party would more be in line with my personal feelings.

    August 21, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  22. howie

    Now this is one democrat who makes sense.

    August 21, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  23. Sitting Bull

    No, it is that the American people are getting fed up with health care reform that they don't want.Oh I forgot ,Pelosi wants it.

    August 21, 2009 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  24. bozo the obama

    America is not 'traumatized' by obamacare, we just DON'T WANT it.

    August 21, 2009 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
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