The Final Battlegrounds For The Public Option


UPDATE: The Finance Committee announced that the public option debate will not take place today. Instead, it is scheduled to occur on Tuesday.

Today, the Senate Finance Committee will consider replacing the health bill’s network of cooperatives with a strong robust public health insurance option. As. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) explained yesterday, “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.”

As Ryan Grim points out, “the Senate and the conference committee between the two chambers” are now “the final battlegrounds for the public option. While several Senate Democrats have said they oppose it, no Senate Democrat has yet said publicly that he or she would oppose any bill that included a public option.” Here is the latest on the debate:

– White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel doesn’t think the public option can pass the Senate:

ROSE: And it will not have a public option feature? EMANUEL: I’m not — that should be what the conference has to negotiate. But I don think — you know. ROSE: Can it pass with a public option feature? EMANUEL: I think the Senate’s been clear about what — the prospects there. That doesn’t mean in the House that they’re not going to come to the table and demand that…”

– Pelosi may push for a more robust public option in the House:

“Pelosi is planning to include a government-run “public option” in the House version of the healthcare bill. She wants to model it on Medicare, with providers getting reimbursed on a scale pegged to Medicare rates,” the Hill’s Mike Soraghan writes. The original House bill allowed the public option to reimburse providers at five percent above Medicare rates.

– A Medicare-like public option saves the most money:

In a bid to wrangle concessions from the Blue Dog Coalition on healthcare reform, House leaders Thursday released CBO estimates for liberals’ preferred version of the public option that show $85 billion more in savings than for the version the Blue Dogs prefer. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) a Blue Dog co-chair, said any possible new momentum toward a public option tethered to Medicare rates is, in part, ‘because of the cost issue’ and the updated CBO score.

– Blue Dogs don’t consider blocking public option a top priority:

The Blue Dogs have been surveying their membership over the last several days; coalition co-chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) has been collecting the responses. She listed the four top priorities that have emerged: Keeping the cost under $900 billion, not moving at a faster pace than the Senate, getting a 20-year cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office and addressing regional disparities in Medicare reimbursement rates. So, the Huffington Post asked, the public option is not a top priority? “Right, the group is somewhat split,” she said.

– The public still doesn’t understand the complexities of health reform, but they support the public option:

President Obama is confronting … an electorate confused and anxious about a health care overhaul as he prepares for pivotal battles … according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. … The poll found that an intense campaign by Mr. Obama to rally support behind his health care plan — including an address to Congress, a run of television interviews and rallies across the country — appears to have done little to allay concerns. Majorities of respondents said that they were confused about the health care argument and that Mr. Obama had not done a good job in explaining what he was trying to accomplish. … On one of the most contentious issues in the health care debate — whether to establish a government-run health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurers — nearly two-thirds of the country continues to favor the proposal, which is backed by Mr. Obama but has drawn intense fire from most Republicans and some moderate Democrats.”