In advance of today's health care event at the UW Medical Center with Sen. Maria Cantwell, the Washington chapter of Health Care for America Now reminds her of its bottom line:

While Senator Cantwell hosts panel discussions in Seattle and Vancouver on national health care reform this week, the Health Care for America Now campaign is urging her to commit to the choice of a public health insurance plan as a “bottom line” for successful reform.

A popular cornerstone of President Obama’s health care plan would allow businesses and families the choice of keeping the insurance that they have or buying into a quality public health insurance plan. Supporters say a public option would compete with private insurers to lower costs and keep the insurance industry honest.

Senator Cantwell has come under fire for promoting an alternative proposal in the US Senate to replace a public option with small regional private insurance cooperatives that critics say would lack the national bargaining power or public accountability to be successful.

“Private co-ops are not a substitute for a strong public option that can compete to drive down costs, make health care more affordable, and keep the private insurers honest,” said Deana Knutsen, board chair for the Washington CAN!, the state’s largest grassroots community organization.

Details on today's public discussion, which begins just after 2 p.m., are here. The rest of the release is in the jump.

Last week, while nearly 10,000 grassroots Health Care for America Now campaign participants converged on Washington, DC for the biggest health care lobbying effort in the nation’s history, Cantwell offered cautious support for the public option. “I think there can be a bill with a public option that can pass," she told The Columbian.

This week, advocates urged her to strengthen her support. “With only private insurance industry choices, we’re stuck every year paying more and getting less, without any guarantees that we won’t be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition,” said Knutsen. “The choice of a quality public health insurance plan should be a bottom line for successful reform.”

There is strong support for the choice of a public health insurance plan. A June 20th New York Times/CBS poll showed 72 percent support for the choice a public health insurance plan, including 57 percent of Republicans. The Seattle Times has endorsed a public option.