Liberals Push Reid To Stand By Public Option In Health Bill
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to hold together members of his caucus to vote for a government-run public option for health insurance that would allow states to opt-out of the plan - a plan that is getting an icy reception, even among Democrats, Bloomberg reports. Reid's "version probably won't require employers to cover workers and will be funded through a tax on high-end insurance plans, which would put him at odds with House Democrats. He also hasn't won over the two Republicans most likely to back the bill, Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins" (Jensen and Litvan, 11/16).
Reid remains at least three votes shy of passing a bill with that provision, The New York Times reports. "The three Democratic holdouts, Senators Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, have all expressed reservations about the public plan" (Herszenhorn, 11/16).
Meanwhile, "A clutch of Senate liberals pressed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to stand firm behind a public insurance option Monday afternoon in the face of filibuster threats from Republicans and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)," Roll Call reports. The liberals would not say whether they spoke to Reid about using the "filibuster-busting budget reconciliation" maneuver to pass the bill, but some lawmakers had pushed for that move earlier (Dennis and Pierce, 11/16).
"Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who requested the meeting with Reid, said progressives believe they have compromised enough on the public option from a Medicare-for-all proposal to Reid's proposal to create a national government plan with a provision for states to opt-out," Politico reports. A Senate aide said the lawmakers had planned to discuss the reconciliation tactic. Brown said, "[W]e're confident that over time, as the debate unfolds and we take amendment after amendment after amendment, that we can get 60 votes" (Brown, 11/16).
Meanwhile, The Los Angeles Times reports that Reid's proposal to raise the Medicare payroll tax on high earners "is meeting resistance from centrist Democrats who believe (a different) tax on expensive insurance plans could rein in the growth of health costs overall, while a payroll tax hike would not." The idea started after criticism of a proposal championed by the Senate Finance Committee to tax insurance companies that offer expensive health care plans. "The competing tax proposals pose the most momentous decision facing Reid as he writes the version of the health bill that he will take to the Senate floor." Some worry the Medicare tax wouldn't rein in health care costs as well as a tax on so-called "Cadillac" health insurance plans, which some say would discourage insurers from offering such plans (Hook, 11/17).
Also in play is the possibility that the Senate bill might not require employers to offer insurance to their workers, The Miami Herald/McClatchy Newspapers reports. "Instead, larger employers would have to pay fees of as much as $750 per worker to help any employee who needed government help to purchase a policy. Most individuals would have to buy coverage, and if they didn't, they too would face penalties." The argument for or against the proposal to make employers offer coverage is likely to be one over government involvement in the private sector (Lightman, 11/16).