GOP Balking At Public Plan In Health Care Reform
Inclusion of a government-run public insurance plan to compete with private insurers could endanger bipartisan support of a health care reform bill as Republicans stand firm against it, The Associated Press reports.
Though Democrats probably don't need much Republican support to pass a bill through Congress - and indeed there is little Republican support for a bill with a public plan in it - President Obama and Democrats have said that a bipartisan bill is likely to be more lasting with greater support. Republicans were irked by the letter Obama sent key Senate Democrats Wednesday that strongly supported a public plan. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Thursday that inclusion of a public plan in a bill that comes out of the Senate is likely.
"'It wasn't helpful, it wasn't helpful,' said Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which is taking a lead role in crafting a health care overhaul. 'Words make a difference. And this made a difference.'"
The AP continues: "Supporters of a new public plan contend it would give people more choices, create more competition and 'keep insurance companies honest,' as Obama wrote to Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the health committee. Opponents say private insurers could not compete with a public plan that didn't have to make a profit. They argue that private health plans would end up going out of business, leaving only an entirely government-run health care system. There appears to be little room for compromise, with Republicans contending that no matter how a public plan is designed, it would inevitably balloon and crush the private market. "
"'It's kind of a litmus test sort of thing,' Grassley said. 'It's just very, very difficult, but I suppose that somewhere out there there's something that's politically realistic that's not a public option that satisfies Republicans and Democrats. But it isn't a government-run system,' Grassley said" (Werner, 6/4).
The New York Times reports that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has continued raising his voice against the public plan: "Whatever the details, what's clear is the marker that Mr. McConnell has sought to lay down on behalf of the Senate Republican minority as the health care debate shifts into a full-fledged battle over language. He insisted that Republicans were in favor of health legislation.'The question is not whether to reform health care,' he said. 'The question is how best to reform health care.' And he said the best way would not include any government-run health insurance" (Herszenhorn, 6/4).
Politico reports that Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) told CNBC ... "That's a nonstarter for us on our side of the aisle,'' while Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, later added: "It is one of the stupidest things we could do."
"Senate Republicans said they want the process slowed a bit because there are too many unanswered questions. Despite the aim of Baucus to produce a bill within two weeks, they have yet to receive a draft or any cost estimates, Republicans said. 'It almost impossible to do a really good job in the time frame they are talking about,' Hatch said" (Brown, 6/4).
The Economist reports that Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., believes many Republicans view a public plan as "a stalking horse for a single-payer system," Judd said (6/4).
In a separate story, The New York Times talks with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who "said Republicans were being pressed by Democrats to support tax increases to pay for a bill they had not seen, with an unknown price tag. 'I'd like to see a bill,' Mr. Roberts said. 'All I've seen is slide shows. After every show, I send the information to our health care providers. Then, after cardiac arrest, they come back and say, 'Whoa, wait a minute, how is this going to affect doctors, hospitals, home health care, clinical laboratories, pharmacists, ambulance drivers?'"
Despite the differences, Grassley said he considers reform with near-universal coverage likely to get done. "'I share the confidence that we're going to get it done because the people of this country expect us to get it done.'" (Pear, 6/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.