Senate Finance Dems Back Public Plan, Blue Dogs Back Away
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee expects the Senate's health care overhaul proposal to include a public health insurance plan, Dow Jones Newswire reports, adding that Baucus was "following the lead of President Obama and drawing a line in the sand on the controversial issue." The President strongly supported the public option in a letter to senators Wednesday.
Members of the Finance Committee have been "'really working together on a bipartisan basis,' [Baucus said,] but fissures on the public plan were tough to ignore," Dow Jones reports. "Despite a growing partisan gulf on the issues of a public option and an employer mandate, the Senate Finance Committee appears to be moving full speed ahead on its version of the health legislation" (Yoest, 6/4).
In announcing his expectations for the public option, Baucus said the "government's thumb" would be "very, very light," Modern Healthcare reports, suggesting that the plan would operate more like a private insurer (DoBias, 6/4).
The Blue Dog coalition, a voting block of fiscally conservative House Democrats, said Thursday they would only support a public plan if it is restricted to operating in a manner similar to private insurance plans, CQ Politics reports. "Among their requirements: The public plan must negotiate payment rates with providers; participation in the plan must be voluntary for both providers and patients; premiums and copayments under the plan must pay for its operations; and the plan must follow the same actuarial standards and regulations required of private insurers ... Politically, the Blue Dogs' document sets the coalition's 51 members squarely at odds with a group of 78 liberals in the House who have cosponsored legislation John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., that would expand Medicare to all Americans and outlaw most private insurance" (Wayne 6/4).