Pelosi Has Tough Words For Insurers As She Pushes Public Option
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is joining liberal Democrats in the House on warning insurers that health care reform could mean lower profit, more fees and new competition from government.
The Washington Post: House Speaker Pelosi's "blunt admonition echoed a round of harsh statements Wednesday from senior Senate Democrats, and came in response to the insurance's lobby's aggressive campaign to block reform legislation from advancing." A study released by insurers earlier in the week said that premiums for most Americans would dramatically increase if health care reform passes. "The tactic now appears to have backfired, as Democrats vow to redouble their efforts to crack down on insurer's practices," according to the Post. Pelosi said a Senate provision may assess a fee on insurers to generate $40 billion over 10 years to help pay for reform. There's also talk of ending an antitrust exemption that protects insurers from governmental interference (Murray, 10/15).
Roll Call reports that Pelosi has sharpened her arguments against the insurance industry to advance the idea of a robust public plan. "'If we're going to mandate that people must buy insurance, why would you throw them into the lion's den of the insurance industry without some leverage?' Pelosi said" (Newmyer, 10/15).
The Associated Press reports that Pelosi said recent actions by the insurance industry point to the need for a public insurance plan. "'Anyone who had any doubts about the need for such an option need only look at the behavior of the health insurance industry this week,' Pelosi said" (Werner, 10/15).
CQ Politics: "It still isn't certain that House Democratic leaders can muster the 218 votes needed to pass a health care plan including a public option. Some conservatives within the party oppose the idea, and Republicans seem united in opposition to the Democrats' proposals" (10/15).
CongressDaily reports that Pelosi will send the House bill to the CBO next week for scoring, but leaders are preparing to use a controversial legislative maneuver called reconciliation if needed. "Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee [Thursday] sent a letter to the Budget Committee with reconciliation instructions for its version of the healthcare overhaul. The move is a precautionary step designed to meet today's budget deadline required for reconciliation, House Democratic committee aides said" (Hunt, 10/15).
Pelosi said Thursday she will also poll her caucus soon on what version of the public option they support if any at all, The Hill reports (Soraghan, 10/15).
Politico has a tentative headcount on that vote: "Liberals and even some leadership aides suggest the speaker has about 200 votes for a public option tethered to Medicare - not the 218 she needs but well within striking distance. The question, though, is whether those members support the overarching bill" (O'Connor and Budoff Brown, 10/15).