This evening, during a hastily arranged press call with reporters, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) predicted that the final health reform package will include a public health insurance option. “The health care bill that is signed into law by the President will have a good strong public option,” Schumer said.
“We are going to be all about it,” Schumer told reporters on the call. Both senators rejected the bill’s current network of cooperatives and Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-ME) trigger compromise and promised to introduce amendments that would establish a national public option. “We are going to have a full blown debate in the Finance Committee,” “Don’t count it out,” Schumer said. “We are going to keep it in the center of the debate as the bill moves through Congress”:
SCHUMER: This is the starting gate. And we know it will get better and better as we move on. But having said that, we’re going to have a full blown debate in the Senate Finance Committee because the more people learn about the public option, the more they like it. And even though a public plan may be an underdog in the Senate Finance Committee, don’t count it out. We’re going to work really hard to get the public option going and started and keep it in the center of the debate as the bill, the health care bill moves through Congress….Tomorrow is the opening day in our big fight, but it is going to be a fight that goes down all the way to the wire. And I’d like to make a prediction. The health care bill that is signed into law by the President will have a good, strong, robust public option.
ROCKEFELLER: And I agree with that.
Rockefeller insisted that “we have a good shot of getting it [the public option] out of the Finance Committee.” “A co-op is not an alternative, a co-op can’t work. The alternative is the status quo,” Rockefeller said. “Don’t rule it out. Don’t fall victim to this feeling that it’s not going to happen. You’re creating a problem for us if that’s the way you’re feeling.”
Rockefeller also praised the committee for passing Rockefeller Amendment D10, which established a MedPAC-like panel of medical professionals who “would be required to implement policies that successfully reduce cost growth in Medicare by at least 1.5 percent annually.” “We did something huge this afternoon in the Finance Committee and that was we passed a MedPac plan.” “Everybody said that there is no chance this could pass. It cannot pass. Well, it passed 15-3 this afternoon in the Senate Finance Committee. So I don’t take a dim view on what we’re able to do. That is a game changer, which is probably, in terms of policy, the largest game changer in health care so far.”
While both Schumer and Rockefeller dismissed the co-op and trigger alternatives as ineffective, it was unclear if Schumer and Rockefeller believed that they could pass a public option that linked the plan’s reimbursement rates to Medicare. A similar proposal was introduced in the House bill, but was later modified in a compromise with Blue Dog Democrats.