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Rockefeller’s Robust Public Option Amendment Fails, 8 – 15

Jay RockefellerThe entire morning of the Senate Finance Committee mark up was dominated with heated debate about Rockefeller’s robust public option amendment. Most Democrats agreed with Rockefeller, saying such a plan would be needed to increase choice, improve competition, and keep private insurance companies honest. Republicans claimed it would the start of a “slow walk” to government-run, single-payer health insurance.

All ten Republicans on the committee voted against the amendment. Five Democrats (Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, Blanche Lincoln, Bill Nelson, Thomas Carper) also voted against the amendment. Eight Democrats (Jay Rockefeller, Jeff Bingaman, John Kerry, Ron Wyden, Charles Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Maria Cantwell, Robert Menendez) vote in support of Rockefeller’s amendments.

The debate did have some interesting political developments. Bill Nelson did not really like Rockefeller’s public option because it would pay Medicare rates for the first two years. Nelson seemed to be very open to the way Chuck Schumer designed his plan. Nelson did not talk at length about Rockefeller’s robust public option, but has endorsed Schumer’s “level playing field” public option.

Kent Conrad was very upset that Rockefeller’s public option would be tied to Medicare schedules given that North Dakota has one of the lowest Medicare reimbursement rates in the country.

He also clearly lives in a fantasy world. Conrad talked about how some systems (Beligium, Netherlands) technically have universal coverage provided by private insurance funds. Yes, it is possible to have a good universal health care system with only private insurance providers, but it needs to be highly regulated. Baucus’s bill doesn’t come anywhere close to the level of government regulation that kind of system requires to work.

If Conrad offered an amendment copying the robust regulation, generous subsidies, strong bad practice penalties, and powerful risk equalizer of the Netherlands’ system, then we can talk about the possibility of reform without a public option.

Olympia Snowe, Thomas Carper, and Blanche Lincoln cannot be bothered to publicly debate one of the committee’s most important amendments. It seems neither Olympia Snowe, Thomas Carper, nor Blanche Lincoln thought they needed to explain their opposition to a robust public option in the official Senate record.

[FDL’s liveblogging of the Senate Finance Committee debate is here.]

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Rockefeller’s Robust Public Option Amendment Fails, 8 – 15

The entire morning of the Senate Finance Committee mark up was dominated with heated debate about Rockefeller’s robust public option amendment. Most Democrats agreed with Rockefeller, saying such a plan would be needed to increase choice, improve competition, and keep private insurance companies honest. Republicans claimed it would the start of a “slow walk” to government-run, single-payer health insurance.

All ten Republicans on the committee voted against the amendment. Five Democrats (Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, Blanche Lincoln, Bill Nelson, Thomas Carper) also voted against the amendment. Eight Democrats (Jay Rockefeller, Jeff Bingaman, John Kerry, Ron Wyden, Charles Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Maria Cantwell, Robert Menendez) vote in support of Rockefeller’s amendments.

The debate did have some interesting political developments. Bill Nelson did not really like Rockefeller’s public option because it would pay Medicare rates for the first two years. Nelson seemed to be very open to the way Chuck Schumer designed his plan. Nelson did not talk at length about Rockefeller’s robust public option, but has endorsed Schumer’s “level playing field” public option.

Kent Conrad was very upset that Rockefeller’s public option would be tied to Medicare schedules given that North Dakota has one of the lowest Medicare reimbursement rates in the country.

He also clearly lives in a fantasy world. Conrad talked about how some systems (Beligium, Netherlands) technically have universal coverage provided by private insurance funds. Yes, it is possible to have a good universal health care system with only private insurance providers, but it needs to be  highly regulated. Baucus’s bill doesn’t come anywhere close to the level of government regulation that kind of system requires to work.

If Conrad offered an amendment copying the robust regulation, generous subsidies, strong bad practice penalties, and powerful risk equalizer of the Netherlands’ system, then we can talk about the possibility of reform without a public option.

Olympia Snowe, Thomas Carper, and Blanche Lincoln cannot be bothered to publicly debate one of the committee’s most important amendments. It seems neither Olympia Snowe, Thomas Carper, nor Blanche Lincoln thought they needed to explain their opposition to a robust public option in the official Senate record.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com

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