This afternoon, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) appeared on Fox News to discuss a proposal to replace the opt-out public option in the Senate health care bill with a ‘Plan B’ — a self-sustaining entity established with public dollars in states where private plans don’t offer affordable coverage. Carper stressed that “we’re not sure whether or not we’re going to need a plan B,” and directly addressed the concerns of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and other moderate lawmakers, who are worried that taxpayers would be on the hook if a the public option “doesn’t go well”:
We’re not sure whether or not we’re going to need a Plan B. If we do, we want to have something that we can offer to more conservative folks in our party, more liberal people in our party and maybe one or two Republicans as well….A number of centrists in our party are not interested in government run, government funded after some initial start-up funding. And we want to make sure there is a level playing field so that is a public option available in some states where there is no affordability there is not much competition, affordability is bad. We want to make sure there is a level playing field that doesn’t disadvantage the private sector.
Carper is combining a non-government public option (most likely some kind of nonprofit board) with the trigger proposal and pitching the plan to Sens. Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson, Lieberman, and Snowe. The plan would compete on an equal playing field with private insurers, receive a start-up loan from the government, would only be available in states that lack affordable coverage and would include “safeguards that make sure that the taxpayers don’t’ end up on the hook if the public option doesn’t go well.”
“We hope by gathering ideas from centrists, and liberals and people in between and some of our Republican friends as well, we hope to gather something that not only gets us to 60 votes but is good public policy and provides us with competition where it is needed,” Carper said.
Asked if the proposal would win the support of Snowe, Carper responded, “I think it’s real important that we have Republican support for the final bill that comes out of the Senate.” “In the end, if she could see her way clear to voting for the bill coming out of the Senate, that might give some of our other Republicans and our colleagues courage as well.”
Live Pulse reports that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is floating her own public option compromise:
A state-based nonprofit insurance competitor would kick into effect where coverage is not considered affordable. It would receive seed money from the government, but would be funded through premiums.
In contrast to Snowe’s proposal, Landrieu’s proposal would not be available on Day One. Landrieu refers to her idea as a “fallback.” She said the insurance market reforms should be given a chance to work.
“It’s like an insurance for people,” Landrieu told a small group of reporters Thursday. “Look, we think we can make the insurance market work better for you and we’re going to do everything we can to do that that’s a central component of this bill but if we fail you will have some kind of backup we’re not going to leave you stranded.”
“The idea of this competitive community option would be that it would kick in automatically not by an option of the state,” said Landrieu, an undecided moderate. “It kicks in automatically based on the reality on the ground, which is what Sen. Snowe has always said which is very important.”