Senate Committee Votes Down Public Option Bill
WASHINGTON With a vote of 15 to 8, the Senate Finance Committee knocked down a proposal to create a new government health insurance plan, one that would compete with the private market.
The negative vote may be an indication of what may be expected for what is called “the public option” in the Senate overall. Although this is not an unexpected outcome it still spells a defeat for liberals who see government-sponsored insurance being made available to the middle class as a major component of President Barack Obama's health care renewal plan.
Included with all of the ten Republicans that voted against the measure were five of the committee’s Democrats. This included its chairman, Max Baucus, all of whom joined the Republicans to defeat the measure that had been put forth by Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.
It was the position of those against the bill that such a public option would force private insurers out of business and amounting in fact to a government takeover. Those favoring the bill and the creation of a public option said it would give consumers choice and competition.
In presenting this bill, the Democrats were attempting to provide the government with the right to sell insurance in competition with private industry. This was done at a time when the Senate Finance Committee had opened yet a second week of debate over comprehensive health care legislation.
Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Sen. Jay Rockefeller said that such an option is needed because the insurance companies have failed to meet their public obligations and he accused health insurance firms of putting profits before their customers.
He added that if this proposal fails then consumers will face substantially large premium increases as soon as health care legislation takes effect.
The Republicans argued that such legislation will put private carriers out of business, forcing millions to get their insurance from the government.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican said that Washington is not the answer.
As the Senate Finance Committee debated legislation that in general falls along lines outlined by President Barack Obama Rockfeller's proposal, as well as a second one proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., health reform faces uncertain prospects.
The Democrats do have a majority in this committee and the legislation was promoted by Senator Max Baucus, D-Mont., legislation lacking the so-called public option. Those Democrats both on and off the committee who considered themselves as being moderates, all opposed it, and the Republican seen as most likely to give her support the bill, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, also spoke out against it.
The Rockefeller proposal states to doctors’ payments, as well as those to hospitals and other health care providers would be based on Medicare fees. In Schumer's proposal there was a call for negotiations to establish the rates.