June 14th, 2009
12:53 PM ET
9 years ago

Senators sound off on health care reform

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Comments by a bipartisan trio of moderate senators Sunday suggest that the Obama administration and more liberal Senate Democrats could be in for a fight if plans to overhaul the nation’s health care delivery system focus primarily on a public health insurance option.

Moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Sunday that she found an approach involving private health insurance co-operatives “far preferable to the government-run plan that has been discussed by the administration.”

Sen. Ben Nelson of Omaha, a moderate Democrat, struck a similar note, suggesting that his party should look first at trying to make current private health insurance options operate more effectively and for more people.

“I think the government role can be a back-up,” Nelson said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

“What we want to do is we want to make sure that we preserve what’s there,” Nelson added, “and be able to have competition but to do it in a way that you don’t destabilize the insurance for 200 million Americans [while] trying to provide for 42 to 46 million Americans to have health insurance as well.”

Democrat Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, was blunt about the upcoming consideration of health care reform in the Senate.

“The problem is votes,” Conrad told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. “I think you are in a 60-vote environment,” said Conrad, rejecting the possibility of using special Senate rules that would require just 51 votes to pass health care reform. “And that means you’ve got to attract some Republicans as well as holding virtually all of the Democrats together. And that I don’t believe is possible with the pure public option. I don’t think the votes are there.”

The senators also signaled Sunday that major battles are ahead over how to pay for health care reform.

Asked whether the country could afford health care reform right now, Sen. Collins responded that “the president’s budget projects deficits that simply are not sustainable in the long run.”

While not disagreeing with Collins about the long-term financial implications of the president’s plans, Sen. Conrad said health care reform should be carried out now even with its potentially high price tag.

“We can’t afford not to,” he said. “This is something that we simply must do for our families, for our businesses, for the country itself.”

Filed under: Health care • State of the Union
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Maggie

    obama.........keep your stupid hands off health insurance.

    June 14, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. Realist

    Any senator against universal healthcare is either paid off by big pharma or insurance companies. Small business will die if we don't remove healthcare from their plate. It's economic, stupid.

    June 14, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  3. Longhorn#1

    Senators do nothings. It will be a shame for someone like me who retired out of the U.S. Army and now has to rely on Medicare and Tricare Prime for my health benefits because a military base is not feasibley close enough for me to drive to for health benefits nor is there a VA. ALL ALONG WHILE MEDICARE IS UNDER ATTACK TO GO BROKE. All this happening when you smart minded people we elected to make a difference in the lives of the American People want to sit and argue while you do nothing. SHAME SHAME> Remembe people YOU WORK FOR US. WHETHER YOU BE DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN AND WE CAN PUT YOU OUT OF OFFICE WHERE YOU BELONG. Get something done about health care and the border!!!

    June 14, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  4. Kevin, Austin

    @Robert Verdi – you're not listening closely. Obama also outlines 100s of Billions in savings from cuts in medicaid/medicare, so I think you're being disingenuous.

    As for giving private health companies a chance... ha. They've had their chance, and they've proven that they can control their greed. They don't work – 30% overhead compared to 5% for government-run programs. Don't lie about who is more efficient – it's not the bottom-line private companies.

    I pay $1200 per month for my private insurance (family of 4 in Texas), plus $20-50 per visit, plus 80/20 copay, plus $3000 deductable. And they won't cover my wife for breast biopsies because she had one a couple of years ago, nor will they cover me for high blood pressure or cholesterol checks/medication because of my history. Though they'll cover me for a heart attack because they can't prove it's related to those two conditions. And yes, you haters, I work out 5 days a week and I eat very, very well. And I own my own business... So you tell me where the freedom has gone? It's a rip-off and we all know it.

    June 14, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  5. Tom

    Leave health care reform ALONE! We don't need the government butting in and telling everyone they MUST have health insurance! I will find mine on my own terms, so don't tax me to pay for someone elses!

    June 14, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  6. Tom (one of the 47 million uninsured without health insurance)

    The problem with this country is that everyone is out for their own interests. We have a good ideas, but the ones on the top, a majority of them anyway, who are stuck in the old ways, refuse to change things, because how things are suits them best. The reasons why healthcare reform did not pass the last time around, like usual the Clinton administration, did procedures very unorganized and goofy like. At least we have an administration that is forward thinking and very organized. Its going to be very interesting how this all plays out and who wins and who loses. I hope this time around, the party of no and the ones opposed to any kind of reform sink and fail in misery. If they have not seen all the healthcare nightmare stories from true people living it, then they must be living in a fantasy world themselves. I am one of the 47 million so called uninsured people in this country.

    June 14, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  7. Gordon Turman

    In order to provide affordable health care for every American, "Profit" must be taken out of the equation. Everyone who is involved in making the decision has to understand that "Money" cannot be the central issue; providing all Americans with affordable health care, $150 per month, is the only solution. If we are as good a country as everyone is quick to point out, we will find a way to pay for it.

    The bottom line is; "its time for Congress to put up or shut up, do what is right for those who elected you"!

    June 14, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |

    I agree , lets give all U.S. CITIZENS the same health care
    coverage that the congress and senate have , or make the
    senate and congress take the same health care coverage
    OBAMA is trying to push down our throats.

    The congress and senate should also be made to take a pay cut.

    June 14, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  9. B.H.

    The GOP will again continue to obstruct any progress Obama is trying to pass.

    June 14, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  10. JC Austin TX

    Right now those people who can't pay show up at the emergency room when their conditions get bad enough. That is the most expensive option and we pick up the bill. It's far cheaper to get these people some treatment before their conditions get so bad and to treat them anywhere else. Whether that means more free clinics or universal insurance or whatever, we need to find a less expensive way to care for these people, I guess some people would argue that we should not care for them at all but the fact is, we do, so let's at least get the costs down. Liberal, conservative or independent should be able to agree with saving $$$.

    June 14, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. No one has answered this question yet....

    When the 40 million people are insured, where are the doctors to handle them?

    Obviously we will all be waiting months for medical care as they do in Canada. I hear it's a 2 year wait in Canada for a hip replacement.
    This is what Obama's plan will bring you and your family--delay and less care.

    June 14, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  12. JDB

    Why isn't every American worthy of receiving the same health care plan the Senators receive?

    Because they won't be able to fund their campaigns without the insurance lobbyists.

    Country first my bootie.

    June 14, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. ex-republican

    "This is in",
    obviously you work for some insurance company, hate our President and the whole America! Plain english, YOU ARE AN IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 14, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  14. Stephen Tracy

    I've been an ER doctor for 25 years. I see many ways that health care costs can be reduced. One is ridiculous over utilization. You don't need to come to the ER for minor ankle sprains, scratches, bumps and bruises, colds etc. Get some common sense. Cigarette smoking should be taxed out of existence if not made illegal. The amount of health care resources directly related to smoking is astronomical. Heart attacks, strokes, COPD, lung cancer, asthma in kids resulting from second hand smoke, the list goes on and on. The same thing goes for gross obesity. Also, there should be a drastic reduction in the huge amounts of money squandered on elderly ,demented, totally disabled persons. These people should have comfort measures only and be allowed to die with dignity. Hundreds of thousands are wasted trying to keep them alive, for what? Get the legal profession off everybodies back and you would also see a great decrease in defensive medicine. Also, people should not seek a pill to take care of all of life's problems. The number of people on psych meds is astounding, and I doubt they do much good.

    June 14, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  15. Barb

    I doubt there can be true health care reform unless we also include in the discussion the exhorbitant costs medical malpractice and the ridiculous prices of medical school education. These current costs are untenable. If not, we will have no MD's to care for us.

    June 14, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  16. annie s

    So our "moderate" Democrats basically just want to keep the status quo – let the for profit insurers continue to charge us high premiums so that they can ration our care and/or drop us when we have serious illnesses. To make a comment about trying to provide for "42 to 46 million" tells me they don't have any real clue about the under insured or those who have to work extra jobs just to pay for their health insurance. A public health option is the ONLY way to reduce costs significantly. ALL Americans should be entitled to the same care as Senator Nelson.

    June 14, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  17. Peter E

    Bureaucrats already decide my health, they just happen to be the bureaucrats of private insurers who make a profit out of denying me services! If a cheaper alternative can be made by government, I say let's take it! At least that would be taxation WITH representation! Private companies just tax you with fees and give you NO representation!

    June 14, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  18. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Finally, a little common sense busting loose! Not much, but some. The more we can keep the idiot government from meddling in health care–or anything else, for that matter–the better.

    June 14, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  19. Limbaugh is a Liberal

    For those who don't know history, all the trends in skyrocketing medical costs started with, and have been fed by the deregulation and privatization of health care, whether it was Bush Jr., or Clinton, both of whom just took their hands off insurance companies and health care providers. This abuse can be traced all the way back to Nixon and his 'brilliant' HMOs! The private health industry has already demonstrated that they will just drive up costs and turn a profit out of denying you services! They don't work for you!

    June 14, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  20. Reggie

    No way. USA is NOT a SOCIALIST country.

    June 14, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  21. Vjolly

    One more thing I am willing to have my taxes raised if it would mean people with problems like I just mentioned would have insurance and they would not loose everything they have worked so hard for go down the drain.

    June 14, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  22. mother and sister of a soldier

    If all americans want equal health care, then I say WORK like those who have it do! Even when both my husband and I lost our jobs we found a way to take care of ourselves. I do not want government run health care. I do not want someone else telling me what I can and cannot have plus my health information government records. This is not the governments job. The people need a lesson in fiscal and self responsibility. You are not entitled to what your neighbor has just because you want it. Learn to earn these things. I am sick of those opting out of employer programs and whining. GET RESPONSIBLE!

    June 14, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  23. George Guadiane Austerlitz, NY

    Preserving What Is There only INSURES that FOR PROFIT HMOs and Insurance Companies can continue to decide who gets how much (or how little) health care based on their bottom line, not on my needs.

    I'm not sure what WOULD be a good solution, but if I have to choose between Government run health care and/or FOR PROFIT care deniers, I'm thinking that I can exert a lot more pressure on my Government with my Senator and Representatives' help than I will ever be able to with people who get more when they provide less for their customers.

    June 14, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  24. Really!?

    If the Dumbocarts must mettle in health care, the back up idea or cooperatives is much more acceptable. Think people...USPS and Medicare are the closest things we have to a government ran health care system. Medicare is going bankrupt, and the USPS is always operating in red ink. Plus, I have never heard anyone praise the speed and efficiency of the USPS.

    June 14, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  25. George Guadiane Austerlitz, NY

    YES, I want the same health care, for the same cost as my employees (the U.S Government).

    AND, I don't want there to be ANY EXCEPTIONS for preexisting conditions... It's inhumane effectively to deny care to people who lost the genetic lottery or who work but have no health care, or LOW INCOME people who have sick children, so they CAN'T work and have Medicaid and can't afford to buy insurance if they take a job.

    June 14, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
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