KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Disagreement Over Public Plan Among Dems Straining Party Unity

A key item in the debates following lawmakers home this month is whether to create a public plan, the Washington Post reports. Republicans and some industry groups oppose it, but the more pressing debate is between Democrats: "Even if one believes the public option is a good thing, should reformers stake everything on its inclusion [in a final reform bill]?" Among the key Democrats on the Senate Finance committee and progressive think-tankers, support for the concept of a government-run plan varies widely. A lack of consensus within the party could be the plans downfall, the Post reports.

The senators:

- Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the committee's chairman, says Democrats have to give up the plan to pass the bill.
- Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., has suggested creating insurance "co-ops" instead that citizens would own, and says the "hard reality is" that the public plan wouldn't clear a Senate vote.
- Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., continued to call for a "strong counterbalance" to a "rapacious" insurance industry.

The think-tankers:

- At the Urban Institute, the Post reports that experts say "a public plan is essential to fiscal responsibility in a country where health-care spending has soared to $2.4 trillion per year."
- At the Brookings Institution, Henry Aaron says the public plan should be leveraged – and given up – as a bargaining chip. "[I]nsisting on a public plan reduces the likelihood there's going to be any plan."
- At Yale, Jacob Hacker, a political scientist who helped conceive of the public option, called co-ops, the moderate alternative a "fig leaf to cover up a lack of commitment to a public plan" (MacGillis, 8/7).

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