Senate Democrats Express ‘Guarded Optimism,’ Wariness On Public Option Compromise
The New York Times: "Senate Democrats said on Wednesday that they were not sure exactly what was in a deal that the majority leader said would surmount a disagreement over a proposed government-run health plan. But they voiced guarded optimism that it would ultimately help them pass major health care legislation." Though all the details are not yet available to rank-and-file members, many lawmakers expressed the idea that the deal signaled their colleagues could "resolve some seemingly intractable differences over the public plan" and other thorny issues such as abortion coverage and costs (Herszenhorn and Pear, 12/9).
Roll Call, though, is reporting the negotiators themselves "appear to be at odds" over the substance of the what was discussed and whether they have reached an agreement at all. Some negotiators "said their 'agreement' had been mischaracterized and that they agreed only to send the proposal to the Congressional Budget Office for a cost estimate."
Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., a moderate, said they needed more information, such as the CBO scores to move forward. And, "other Democratic negotiators were quick to push back against the notion that they had shaken hands on anything. ... 'There's no specific compromise. There were discussions,' Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said" (Drucker and Pierce, 12/10).
And, even as centrists remained wary, Politico reports in an analysis, liberals who championed the public option "woke up Wednesday to a disappointing new truth, given all they had invested in the proposal: Senate Democrats traded away the public option for 60 votes." Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a liberal, "was described as the last holdout in the room for the public option. He won a small concession by having the group send a proposal to the Congressional Budget Office that includes a 'trigger,' but it's unclear whether that provision will survive the next round of negotiations" (Brown, 12/10).
NPR: "Whether or not the plan includes a public option - a federally run health plan - will apparently come down to how you define 'public option.' There will likely be a role for the federal Office of Personnel Management, which now oversees the hundreds of private plans that cover 9 million federal workers and their families, including members of Congress. It's known as the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and it's often held up as a model for public-private cooperation on health care. Exactly what the Office of Personnel Management would oversee under Reid's new plan remains unclear. What's being discussed includes having the office oversee a group of private, nonprofit health plans" (Rovner, 12/9).
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that "President Barack Obama on Wednesday endorsed a Senate Democratic compromise that backed away from a big government-run health plan, calling the idea a 'creative framework' that could propel a health bill to passage." He also said the compromise would "help pave the way" for a health bill's final passage. But Republicans "condemned the compromise as an act of desperation" (Hitt and Bendavid, 12/10).
The Republican reaction was that the Medicare expansion is a bad idea, just like earlier Democratic proposals, and would "threaten competition and drive up costs," Roll Call reports. "It's like 'Groundhog Day.' They're doing everything they can to get 60 votes," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. (Brady, 12/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.