Senate Finance Panel Set To Debate Provisions for Public Option Today
Liberal Democrats will contend with party moderates on the Senate Finance Committee today when the panel debates amendments on the public plan option from Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the AP/Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.
Liberals see a public plan option as a top priority for overhauling the U.S. health system. On the other hand, moderates do not think it is as necessary and do not believe that it can pass a full floor vote in the Senate (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/29).
The debate over the public option "will provide the starkest display yet of the political fault lines [Democrats face] as lawmakers search for a path to agreement. And it could help define what any compromise would look like," the Los Angeles Times reports (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 9/29).
Public option advocates also are hoping that the debate in the committee draws the public's attention to the issue. According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, two-thirds of Americans support a public plan (Los Angeles Times, 9/29).
In addition, Schumer believes a debate in the Finance Committee could reinvigorate discussion of the public plan option, which is included in health reform legislation from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (S 1679) and the House (HR 3200).
Schumer said, "The Senate floor is more favorable to the public plan option than the Finance Committee, and (negotiations with the House are) more favorable than the Senate floor," adding, "But we certainly want to begin the debate. ... The more focus there is on the public option, the better it does. All the misunderstandings get cleared up."
Details of the Amendments
At least three potential versions of the public option could be offered Tuesday. Schumer could propose the "level playing field" option, which would permit health care providers to negotiate reimbursement rates and voluntarily opt in to the program.
In coordination with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Schumer also could propose an amendment that would allow the HHS secretary to negotiate provider reimbursement rates at levels no higher than the average of all reimbursement rates in the health insurance exchange.
Lastly -- in what some consider the most liberal approach to the public plan option -- Rockefeller could propose a public option amendment that would allow the HHS secretary to set provider reimbursement rates at 5% above those for Medicare (Budoff Brown/O'Connor, Politico, 9/29).
Liberals Target Baucus
Liberal interest groups are targeting Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) for not including a public plan option in the Finance Committee bill through a new television ad that begins airing Tuesday, Roll Call reports.The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America are airing the ad in Montana and on cable news (Rhee, "Political Intelligence," Boston Globe, 9/28). 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.