August 16th, 2009
10:08 AM ET
7 years ago

Democratic senator: Public health insurance option dead

Demoractic Sen. Kent Conrad said Sunday that his party does not have the 60 votes necessary in the Senate to stop a filibuster of a health reform bill that includes a public insurance option.

Demoractic Sen. Kent Conrad said Sunday that his party does not have the 60 votes necessary in the Senate to stop a filibuster of a health reform bill that includes a public insurance option.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A key Senate negotiator said Sunday that President Barack Obama should drop his push for a government-funded public health insurance option because the Senate will never pass it.

Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota said it was futile to continue to "chase that rabbit" due to the lack of 60 Senate votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

"The fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the United States Senate for a public option. There never have been," Conrad said on "FOX News Sunday."

Conrad is one of six Senate Finance Committee members - three Democrats and three Republicans - who are negotiating a compromise health-care bill that would be the only bipartisan proposal so far.

Three House bills and another Senate version have all been proposed by Democrats, and all contain provisions for a public health insurance option intended to compete against private insurers.

Republican opponents argue the public option is a step toward the government taking over the health care industry. Many Democrats argue that it would not have that effect.

Conrad has proposed creating non-profit health insurance cooperatives that could negotiate coverage as a collective for their members.

He said Sunday that such cooperatives would provide the competition sought by Obama and Democratic leaders to force private insurers to hold down costs and improve practices.

Obama continues to support a public insurance option but appears to have softened his position in recent weeks.

At a town hall meeting Saturday in Colorado, he said the issue is one of many that are critical to successfully overhauling the ailing health-care system. "All I'm saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform," Obama said. "This is just one sliver of it."

On Sunday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN's "State of the Union" that a final health-care bill will meet Obama's requirements of affordable, accessible health coverage for all.

"There will be a competition to private insurers," she said. "You don't turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing. We need some choices and we need some competition."

Updated: 11:38 a.m.

Full story

Related: Health care in America

Filed under: Health care • Kent Conrad • Popular Posts
soundoff (155 Responses)
  1. Francisco Cardenas

    If the Public Health Insurance Option dies, it is because the Health Insurance Industry has lined the pockets of our politicians. Without a Public Option, the Health Insurance Industry will continue to control healthcare.

    August 16, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  2. The Dude

    Yet another senator bought and paid for by the insurance industry.

    August 16, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  3. Grace

    Shame on him.

    August 16, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  4. mk

    A woman goes to her doctor in her home townbecause she has abdominal pain.
    He examines her, does some blood work and advises her to return to his office in a month.
    During that period this woman becomes eligible for employee health insurance. When she tries to make her return appointment with her own hometown doctor she is told by her insurance company that she can't.
    Instead, she is forced to make an appointment with a new doctor she has never seen in a town 20 miles from her own hometown.
    She sees the new doctor who does not send her to the doctor she has already consulted, instead he orders two very expensive tests.
    This is how private FOR PROFIT insurance companies do business every single day. THEY decide who you can see, what you can have done and what you can't. NOT YOUR DOCTOR. I urge every single one of you who are opposed to healthcare reform to ask your doctor's office how much they actually get paid by your insurance company versus what the doctor charges. Ask him/her how much he writes off every year because he has a contract with your insurance company.
    Ask him how many people are employed in his office to manage the massive billing, referral, and authorization process required by insurance companies these days. If you think private insurance works well you truly are NOT asking these questions. Most likely you go to the doctor, pay your copay and know nothing about what goes on after you have had your visit.
    I know because I am one of the people who works in your doctors office trying to get your insurance company to pay your claims and allow YOU to have necessary blood tests and procedures.
    If you continue to allow yourselves to be influenced by the lies you are being told about awful health care reform will be you deserve to remain in a system that is designed to make money for insurance companies.

    August 16, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  5. joe

    Mr. Obama is starting to show that his lack of experience for the office he holds and people are waking up to the realization that he is in fact trying to pull the wool over our eyes and provide us with socialized/rationed health care. The document clearly states that the government will decide end of life care, will assist doctors in making decisions and will • Page 30, line 23 — There will be a government committee that decides what treatments you get. This bill is all about control and this President has shown he wants to control EVERYTHING; Auto's Wall Street, Pay, everything. The language of this bill is certainly ambiguous and given it is open to interpretation, once we let the government in, they will do what they want because the language of the bill will allow them to define it how they want – regardless of what Mr. Obama is trying to sell us in his road trips!

    August 16, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  6. Dianne

    If democrats fail to pass health care reform with a public option, they should ALL be voted out of office! They don't know what to do with the power they now have. Kudo's to the republicans if they win this battle.

    August 16, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  7. just.thomas

    Mr. Conrad You have to resign from Democratic Party and House seat.

    August 16, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  8. MSB

    It's pretty sad... Change has come to America huh? What, Latin America? What a joke we've become. Maybe we need another dog or beer story to fill in the growing "competency gap" in the WH. Someone wake me up when Obama actually *completes* anything at all besides the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Yeah progress.

    August 16, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  9. Scott

    This guy sucks up public healthcare like biscuits and gravy. Then turns around and denies that choice the American People because he's been paid off by the insurance industry.

    Screw him. It changes nothing. We'll just have to figure out a way around him and his ilk.

    August 16, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  10. k

    Good! We all agree that health insurance needs to be reformed. But, the majority of us do not agree that we need a governmnet run healthcare system. Government should NOT be in control of our healthcare (nor our lives for that matter)!

    August 16, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  11. MomInNYC

    The idea of "affordable, accessible health coverage for all" without an actual public health plan is a joke - it will never happen. As far as these "co-ops" that will supposedly save us? I was IN one and it is a disaster. (Freelancer's Union in NYC) Claims denied left and right. Injections and biopsies in your Dr's office considered to be surgery and again, not covered. It is so bad I left and went to a private company - they're not great and they're not at all afforable, but they're a lot better than how the "co-op" idea is working out (not to mention, one serious $2,000,000 illness among its membership and any of these co-ops will crash and burn).

    August 16, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  12. vic nashville , Tn

    Obama socialist ?

    If insurance companies steal form one to cover others called capitalism

    If government tax one to cover others called socialism

    If government subsided the insurance companies called capitalism

    If government cover the public direct called socialism

    Wake up

    August 16, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  13. m jeff

    Senator Conrad is just another fake Democrat in wolves clothing,bought and paid for by the Insurance industry and the Republican party.

    August 16, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  14. MLH

    If the public health insurance options dies, then it is time to be honest and get rid of Medicare and Medicaid. Those are public health insurance options. Let's see how many people who are all up in arms now, are ready and willing to give up their Medicare benefits. If you support Medicare or Medicaid, then you already support public health insurance.

    August 16, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  15. Georgette

    What a surprise, a Congressman who doesn't have the stones to do what he knows is the right thing for America. But, he'll be a hero to his constituents and win re-election for standing up for the people. You are one pathetic soul, Senator.

    August 16, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. J.C.

    All the competition talk is nonsense. We have had competition for decades. But it has been this monster insurer against that monster insurer. People are suffering from private insurers' common practice, which drops you if you start to incur loss to them and rejects you if you have pre-existing conditions. We do not need more fake competitions. We need a public plan for the health care reform. IF we do not get a public plan, all those that vote against a public plan will be voted out of Congress in the next election cycle, because they have fail to represent their voters. We will need another health care reform under another administration.

    August 16, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. Allen from Illinois

    I have the greatest healthcare program in the world, it is called Tricare. All military retirees have this program. It is a single payer, government run, socialized health program. For the life of me, I can’t understand why people on the right won’t allow the rest of the American to have the option to enroll in a program, like this. This is what the public option would be like. It’s good enough for me, and military retirees, but not for the rest of my country?

    August 16, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  18. Catmantwo

    Odd, what would be in the people's best long term interest and what all other advanced western countries already have, IS NOT an option.

    One wonder who is really in control. Blue Cross claims non profit status yet restricts benefits, adds up to 50 percent co-pays while paying CEOS 8 million dollar tax paid severence packages.

    Yes, this happened in Vermont, a small state. Imagine what these people take away in larger states.

    August 16, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  19. F-Dog

    Time to start yelling for an "up-or-down-vote".

    August 16, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  20. Reggie

    That's for sure. We don't want gov't run public health insurance. Give it up Obama and try something that will actually HELP us instead of HARM us.

    August 16, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  21. XMilitary

    Just compare the options they try to put a finger on.
    Sweden is dumping public health care for privatized options, moving towards a US system, UK fires nurses and qualified personnel leaving itself shorthanded.

    And now the US should simply move towards what other countries have deemed unsustainable. That sounds like a really bad plan to me, doomed to failure before it even starts given the International track records of plans like these.

    Do politicians ever Think! before they act or do they simply hold office to push the flag of failure forward?

    August 16, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. Dave in Illinois

    At last, an honest opinion by a Democrat. I want reform but I don't want the government running health care. Their track record on every other government run program is abysmal. Are Medicare costs under control? Are postage fee's dropping? Is Social Security self-sustaining? Do military toilet seats cost $640?

    The public option even when identified as a "co-op" will sink our healthcare system and our economy.

    August 16, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  23. MillerJ

    No, it's got nothing to do with the health insurance industry lining senator's pockets; it has everything to do with people realizing that they don't want the government in charge of their health care.

    August 16, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  24. otis

    Public funded government option: January 21, 2009 – August 16, 2009.

    You will not be missed.

    August 16, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  25. melissa

    This is out of step with what the majority of Americans want, which is reform (most of us just aren't out waving guns in the street and carrying ridiculous and signs). We want reform and we want options. Without a public option, nothing will change. Insurance companies will continue to make record profits while gouging consumers and dropping policies on paying costumers who get sick... Public option allows each of us to decide for ourselves whether to stay with our insurance company or choose a government sponsored program. This is the American thing to do. If it is taken off the table, expect consequences in the voting booth. Senator Conrad, you will not be in office next term, no matter how much insurance money you have lining your treasure chest.

    August 16, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
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