House Majority Leader Raises Possibility of Dropping Public Option
On Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D) suggested eliminating a public plan from health reform legislation to help advance a bill through Congress, The Hill reports.
In a media conference call, Hoyer said, "I'm for a public option, but I'm also for passing a bill" (Swanson, The Hill, 8/21). He added, "We believe the public option is a necessary, useful and very important aspect of [health reform], but we'll have to see because there are many other important aspects of the bill as well" (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 8/21).
According to CongressDaily, Hoyer's comments appeared to contradict earlier comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Speaking on Thursday in San Francisco, Pelosi said, "There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option."
Both the House tri-committee reform bill (HR 3200) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's bill include a public plan. Leaders in both chambers are waiting for the Senate Finance Committee's bipartisan negotiating group to conclude its work on the panel's bill before reconciling the proposals for the final legislation (Hunt/House, CongressDaily, 8/21).
According to The Hill, it is unlikely in the Senate that a proposal that includes a public plan would garner the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who has developed a plan for health care cooperatives as an alternative to a public plan, has said that attempting to pass a bill in the Senate with a public plan is a "wasted effort" (The Hill, 8/21).
McCain Urges Obama To 'Abandon' Public Plan
In an interview on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that President Obama would "have to abandon the public option" to ensure that he has adequate support in Congress to pass health reform legislation this year, The Hill reports.
McCain said that with recent public opinion polls indicating voters' confidence in health reform efforts slipping, it would be a "good idea" for Obama to engage Republicans and Democrats with a fresh plan and debates on the planÂ (Johnson, The Hill, 8/23).
Sebelius Restates Administration's Support for Public Plan
On Thursday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reiterated the Obama administration's strong support for including a public plan in reform legislation, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Speaking during a visit to the Ohio State University Medical Center, Sebelius avoided repeating an earlier statement that the public plan is "not the essential element" of the administration's health reform plan.
She said, "There's no question [Obama] believes, and I believe, that the best way to make sure that we have choices for consumers and cost competition for the private industry is with a public option and a new marketplace."
Sebelius said that although "other ideas" for spurring competition and cutting costs for health insurance are under consideration, the House and Senate HELP reform bills have "made very clear" that a public option "is an essential component of the plan" (Hallett, Columbus Dispatch, 8/22).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Sunday included a discussion with Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein regarding eliminating a public plan from reform proposals (Raz, "All Things Considered," NPR, 8/23)."All Things Considered" on Friday broadcast an interview with former Democratic National Committee Chair and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean about the public plan (Siegel, "All Things Considered," NPR, 8/21). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.