No Public Option in Senate Health Care Bill?
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As Congress wrangles its way through the crafting of health care reform, one long-awaited proposal seems poised to drop with a thud. The Senate Finance Committee, led by conservative Democrat Max Baucus of Montana, is closing in on completing a draft bill, according to the Associated Press, that stands at odds with the bill recently passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, in that it does not require employers to offer insurance coverage to employees, nor does it have a public health insurance plan. Oh, and it may feature a tax on health-care benefits.
Does this look familiar to anyone?
-- No employer mandate
-- No public option
-- But yes, an individual mandate
It should -- because this particular permutation on health care reform looks an awful lot like the incomplete draft of the HELP Committee's bill that the CBO scored last month, which also lacked an employer mandate and a public option but contained an individual mandate. That bill, the CBO estimated, would cost about $1.0 trillion -- but would only cover a net of about 16 million people. In contrast, the revised version of the HELP Committee's bill, which did include both a public option and an employer mandate, would cost about the same amount but cover a net of 37 million people.
Unlike the Democrats on the Senate HELP Committee, and the three House committee chairmen who jointly crafted a health care bill, Baucus has been seeking a bipartisan compromise, something that maybe a few Republicans will vote for -- along with conservative Democrats.
The AP suggests that the public insurance plans featured in both the House bill and the Senate HELP bill would be replaced in the Finance Committee bill by a non-profit co-op scheme proposed by conservative Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota. At least one progressive Democrat is not amused.
"I don't call that an acceptable alternative [to a public insurance plan]," said Progress Caucus co-chair, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif. "I call that gaming the system."
Woolsey made her comments this morning on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show.
Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's acting Washington bureau chief.