Democratic Leaders Shift On Public Plan, But Push Ahead Despite Setbacks
Despite recent setbacks, congressional Democratic leaders have continued pushing for a new government-run insurer as part of health reform. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warmed this week to a more moderate approach to the health insurance plan proposed by centrist Democrats, The Hill reports. The centrist version requires the plan to negotiate payment rates with individual doctors and other providers, much as private insurers do. The liberal version, which Pelosi had previously favored, would have had the power to set its rates at what Medicare pays, plus 5 percent. In remarks Thursday, Pelosi dismissed alternatives like co-ops and a so-called "trigger" option (Soraghan and Allen, 10/1).
In the Senate, Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday that their bill also would have a public plan, though it might be a centrist version, Politico reports. "There is not one way to Rome; there are lots of ways to Rome," said Schumer. He also said more conservative Democrats seemed willing to consider a version of the public option in the final bill in conversation (Sherman, 10/1).
That still leaves Republicans. "The House's No. 2 Democrat and No. 2 Republican Thursday finally reached agreement -- they say -- to meet about health care," Congress Daily reports. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the minority whip, said he looked "forward to hearing from" Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., about scheduling a meeting next week. Hoyer had said he hoped they could identify areas of agreement. Republicans have recently complained about being excluded from talks about health care (House, 10/2).
The top House Republican, John Boehner, R-Ohio, was less sanguine, at least about the public option. That proposal is "about as unpopular as a garlic milkshake," he said, The Hill reports. "I'm still trying to find the first American to talk to who's in favor of the public option, other than a member of Congress or the administration. I've not talked to one, and I get to a lot of places and I've not had anyone come up to me - I know I'm inviting it - and lobby for the public option," he added (Hooper, 10/1).