House Democrats: ‘We Will Fight’ Any Plan Without Public Option
Liberal House Democrats are threatening to kill any plan that doesn't include a government-run public option, Roll Call reports, quoting Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.: "'No one in this building wants health care reform as much as we do. However, if reform legislation comes to the floor, and it does not include a real and robust public option that lives up to our criteria, then we will fight it with everything that we have,' she said."
Roll Call continues: "The draft House bill presented last week includes such a public option, which is supported by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Obama, but it faces resistance from fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats and a rocky road in the Senate. Woolsey spoke at a Wednesday joint press conference featuring the Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus" (Dennis, 6/25).
The press conference message reflected more than 120 members of Congress, CQ Politics reports: "The four caucuses represent some of the most liberal members of Congress; in the House, many of their members have signed onto bills that would create a nationalized, single-payer health system by expanding Medicare to cover everyone. Those lawmakers consider the creation of a government-run plan to compete with private insurers a compromise" (6/24).
Meanwhile, House Democrats are "pleased with" how the White House is handling Republican criticism of reform, Roll Call reports in a separate story, while adding: "But some Congressional Democrats regarded as anemic and even gimmicky earlier White House efforts to display deficit restraint, pointing to moves like the early May announcement that $17 billion in savings would be achieved by cutting programs. Republicans quickly pointed out that the figure was a drop in the bucket and waged a PR offensive to get the initiative laughed out of town. But Democrats are gratified by Obama's relentless focus on using health reform to reduce costs and on paying for any public insurance option with cuts in other areas and tax increases" (Koffler, 6/25).
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday while testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee that a government-run public option would increase choice and competition, The Associated Press/USA Today reports: "Argued Sebelius: 'If there is no choice in the market, cost regulation is almost irrelevant. It's a marketplace strategy that competition is often more effective than heavy-handed regulation'" (6/24).
Other House Democrats are considering a maneuver to raise Medicare payment rates to doctors which would slim the pricetag of reform by $285 billion, and hope to attract the support from the American Medical Association in return, The Hill reports: "On its own, the permanent fix would add hundreds of billions of dollars of new spending to the bill, which is expected to exceed $1 trillion. But House Democrats are eyeing budgetary maneuvers that would erase the cost of the Medicare physician payment increases by making the change but not having it be subject to pay-as-you-go budgeting rules that would require the spending increase to be offset with tax hikes or other cuts The House Democrats' bill would 'rebase' the physician payment formula to assume that Medicare spending over the next 10 years would include the new policy and the hundreds of billions of dollars in additional spending."
"That would result in a CBO score of the healthcare reform bill significantly lower than one using the old, lower baseline as a starting point, since the higher Medicare payments would no longer be included in the cost assumptions" though the plan would not be deficit-neutral (Young, 6/24).