Republican Leaders Heat Up Opposition to Public Health Plan
In a letter to President Obama released on Monday, nine Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee expressed their opposition to creating a new public health insurance plan as part of health reform legislation, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/9).
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) last week said that such a plan would probably be included in the Senate's final overhaul bill, and in a letter last week, Obama told Congress that he "strongly" supports a public option.
Republicans have said that they believe that a public option would drive private insurers from the market, leaving the government as the only provider of coverage (Haberkorn, Washington Times, 6/9).
The Republican letter was initiated by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and signed by the committee's ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).Â
It states, "At a time when major government programs like Medicare and Medicaid are already on a path to fiscal insolvency, creating a brand new government program will not only worsen our long term financial outlook but also negatively impact American families who enjoy the private coverage of their choice" (Drucker, Roll Call, 6/8).
The letter continues, "Forcing free-market plans to compete with these government-run programs would create an unlevel playing field and inevitably doom true competition," adding, "The end result would be a federal government takeover of our health care system, taking decisions out of the hands of doctors and patients and placing them in the hands of a Washington bureaucracy."
The lawmakers cited research from the Lewin Group that found that 119 million U.S. residents would lose their private coverage if a public plan were made available to everyone. "This would run contrary to your pledge to the American families about allowing them to keep the coverage of their choice," the senators wrote (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 6/8).
They added, "It is essential that we work together across party lines and we would like to express our strong desire to focus on areas of compromise to move forward on this important challenge in a comprehensive, inclusive and bipartisan manner" (CongressDaily, 6/8).
The End of Bipartisanship?
On Monday, the Senate Republican Communication Center issued a news release that included a two-page summary of news articles that it said indicates that Obama is abandoning bipartisan efforts in the debate over health care reform legislation, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The release added that Democrats are "forcing government-run health care" (CQ HealthBeat, 6/8).
In addition, Grassley's signature on the GOP letter is "notable" because previously he has been an advocate for bipartisan negotiations along with Baucus, according to Roll Call (Roll Call, 6/8).
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who signed the letter, said, "Democrats know that if they go to a totally partisan approach like the president has suggested they're going to eat that the rest of their lives." He added, "I'll be glad to help them, but not with a public plan."
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the only Senate Finance Committee Republican to not sign the letter, supports the use of a public plan in the case that private insurers are unable to make insurance available to significantly more people (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/9).
Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now, said, "The moderates will be very important," although the potential for using the budget reconciliation process to pass a reform bill with only 51 votes gives the Democrats additional room to maneuver (Fritze, USA Today, 6/8).
In the House
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is chair of the GOP Health Care Solutions Group, said that nearly all Republicans in the House and several Democrats feel that with a public option, "before too long the government would be the only competitor left standing."
Blunt said the HCSG currently is drafting a health reform plan that would provide coverage for everyone who wanted it and be funded by eliminating waste and fraud in the health care system. He also said the cost of the plan would be minimized by the competition resulting from people having a choice of health plans (CQ HealthBeat, 6/9).
On Monday, PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" reported on several topics related to health reform.
One segment looked at meetings held this weekend by the public to discuss reform efforts.A second segment -- which included comments by Time National Political Correspondent Karen Tumulty and New York Times Magazine Washington, D.C., Correspondent Matt Bai -- discussed Obama's role in efforts to develop and pass reform legislation (Bowser/Ifill, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," 6/8). 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.