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. Eddo

    Statements such as this from members of Congress are indications of just how flawed this leglistation really is. For example:
    1. Your employer provides you health insurance coverage from an insurance company certified by the Health Choices Administration (HCA) as meeting government requirements. The insurance company your employer is using makes changes to the policy (rate increase, coverage changes, etc). The plan is now automatically disqualified by the HCA and your company, and you must participate in the Health Insurance Exchange. This will very likely mean you will be covered by a different company and become a patient of a different docotor or doctors.
    2. The legislation specifically denies health care coverage to persons and the families who do not have legal status. BUT, it does not establish a method of verifying eligibility as a US citizen.
    3. If enacted, someone is going to have to pay for this new program and thus far, not enough offsets have been found to do so. That may mean that the taxpayers in middle-income brackets will have to foot the bill.

    This legislation, when added to the banking industry bailouts, the automotive industry bailouts, and the Cash for Clunkers program is simply more than this country can afford during this economic downturn.

    Too much, too fast, and too soon!

    August 16, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. BLembergMD

    The public option has always been a "wolf in sheep's clothing." Sen. Conrad is correct and should be congratulated.There has always been compettition in the insurance business even if I , as a physician, do not agree with all their actions. At least, I am not forced to accept their pronouncements as I would with the government.

    August 16, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  3. sunshine

    shame on this man, President Obama has every American in his plan, not just the few who can afford these outrageous insurance companies, millions and millions have no insurance, it's time for all Americans to be able to have proper health care, God Bless President Obama.

    August 16, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  4. Joan

    If the Republicans and special interest groups had supported Hillary Clinton's health care policy, right now all of your citizens would be covered and your hit and miss health care system would not be the most expensive in the world. Everyone is watching to see what your country does this time. The Repulicans did absolutely nothing to improve this system for eight years and now everyone is supposed to believe they have all the answers. The misconceptions about a public system are boundless. I would put my health care against yours any day. The amount that I am taxed for my health care doesn't even come close to the monstrous premiums you folks pay and I can never go bankrupt or have my health care terminated. Also, there is a huge difference between a full public system like we have in Canada and a public option along with private options as Pres. Obama has outlined. He understands that the private system in your country is too entrenched and cannot be dismantled but it sure needs major overhauling. Also without a public option, this reform has no teeth.. It is hopeful to hear that the doctor's and nurse's organizations in your country back him and now twently-five faith based groups do too. This is probably going to turn out like the stimulus bill. The Republcans are again the party of NO. Now that the stimulus is working and the recession is ending, they cannot take any credit for it. The same will happen with health care reform,

    August 16, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. Wise Latina

    Obama said that all of the insurance paperwork that his mom had to face as she was dying was enormous and must be changed. Okay, then let's develop a monstrously bureacratic IRS-like government controlled system.

    Yep, fill out a 'tax return' every time you get sick. That sounds just great to me...

    August 16, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  6. Tarquin Tar

    What Senator Conrad is saying is clear: publicly funded health insurance is completely acceptable if you are a Senator or Congressman, but if you're a member of the public - the tax-paying public - then the government is not interested in protecting your basic right of receiving medical care when you need.

    Private sector health insurance is un-American - health care is a basic right ("right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" - remember that, Senator?) and in this great country we do NOT put our rights up for sale on the market.

    A nation that allows health care to be delivered on a basis of ability-to-pay rather than need-for-care is a nation that has lost its moral compass.

    August 16, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  7. procommunity

    Applause to Pres. Obama for continuing to work toward healthcare reform, but shame on the Democrats for refusing to open their eyes to wasteful spending on procedures that are not cost-effective. Many of these occur because of fear of malpractice suit. Tort reform is essential to the real reform, as is prohibition of consumer-directed advertising for prescription drugs.

    August 16, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  8. Prevaricator

    So tell me, what is the difference between a corporate bureaucrat and a federal bureaucrat between you and your doctor?

    Insurance companies are in the business of collect, collect, collect premiums and deny, deny, deny claims.

    Get real people. Do your own research and don't rely on those who have an agenda.

    August 16, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  9. J.C.

    MLH is absolutely right. Medicare is a public plan. Every doctor and senior I asked said they prefer Medicare to private insurance companies. But Medicare is not free. Seniors paid with Medicare Taxes (the current rate is 1.45%) all their life up to 65. Everyone contributes to Medicare. This is the principle of a public plan. Everyone participates and everyone pays. I propose to raise the new Medicare tax rate from 1.45% to 5% of your incomes and get rid of private health insurance premiums, which cost at least $13,000 per year for a family. I can understand the rich would prefer private health insurance premium of $15,000 to 1.45% or 5% of their high incomes.

    However, I don't understand the middle class and below going against a public plan. Your employer is paying at least $13,000 for your family. IF we have a public plan, "your employer" will only have to pay a percentage of your incomes per year, not $13,000 and ever more. When did you hear any insurance company lowering your premiums?

    The money saved for the employer will give more capital for business expansion and create more jobs. Our government can hire the workers for these private health insurance companies to manage our New Medicare, but at Uncle Sam's rate. Insurance is a non-productive sector of our economy. IF we really want to revive our economy to a sustainable level, we should limit its growth and channel resources to productive sectors for more productive jobs. Thanks!

    August 16, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  10. bob

    it all starts with tort reform.. stop the lawyers from running the system. going to be tough for obama to turn on his own, though...

    August 16, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  11. jim

    One part of this health care reform that has not been discussed is just exactly what level of health care coverage is being planned for those people without health care coverage at this time. This question is fundamental when discussing a health care plan for the uninsured and the administration has not defined any parameters of such a plan. I don't think there exist many people that are opposed to having some basic health care package for those that are uninsured--unless they are here illegally, but the working class want a plan with broader coverage since they work for it and now will work for insuance coverage for those that don't work and with mr. Obama's plan, are here illegally.
    It simply baffles me that the government wants to 'overhaul' a private health care system when they don't even have the plan for the uninsured defined at this time-I mean, what are we buying into? Ask a congressman, or the president-they don't even know.

    August 16, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  12. Jacquie

    If the public option is dead, then this Senator needs to be removed from his office. If these people can be influenced by the corporate interests EVEN WHEN WE VOTED IN a majority to get a public healthcare option, then there is no hope, these creeps will always run our country. You thought your vote counted and you thought that your government is there to protect you. No they are bought and paid for, and all you nimrods yelling about your country, if you have ever been to a socialist country, you would know that America could never be one. All I can say is that if these politicans listen to the ignorant yelling screaming idiots, and this gets derailed with a majority then don't be sending me emails about how the Dems need money to keep your majority when a "majority" didn't win. Any money I give will be to defeat Blue Dogs. They don't want to AWAKEN the sleeping giants in the Democratic party, see what that got you, a Democratic President. I hope Obama lays down the law to these traitors, tow the line or no money for your next campaign. We support only loyal Democrats.

    August 16, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  13. The Veteran

    Without a public option, this is a big old waste of time. I have government provided insurance from my military service. So I'm good regardless. But for the life of me, I don't understand why in the richest country in the world, we have people that are so ignorant, they cannot understand that heath care IS being rationed right now by the insurance companies through (1) Higher Premiums, and (2) Denying Claims.

    We're going to be a third world country very soon. Our own people are so ignorant, they believe that insurance companies are looking out for our best interest. They believe that corprations will look out for them, and the government won't. When corporations are designed to look out for themselves, and our government was designed to look out for us.

    They believe up is down, and down is up.

    August 16, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  14. rw

    May God have mercy on each one of us and the crooked insurance companies.

    August 16, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  15. TommyT

    Hard to believe the monstrous private insurers would feel threatened by a bumbling government health insurance competitor. UPS and FEDEX never complain about unfair competition from the US Post Office. A public option is the ONLY way to insert some semblance of competition into the marketplace to force the private insurance oligarchy to broaden their coverage and to offer affordable rates .

    August 16, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  16. Jeanne

    Am I to assume that all of you that have posted, have health care and thru your employer?? That all of you are healthy and have no pre-existing conditions?? That you make enough money that if you leave your job or are not employed that you can afford the COBRA??
    Did you all see the article about the state of Michigan and Blue Cross Blue Shield?? You didn't? Well, the state negotiated the increase of 46% – 52% on premiums for individuals who aren't covered by employers down to 22%. Wow! what a deal!

    Oh, sure the insurance companies are offering anything right now, because they are scared that they will lose the billions of dollars in profits. So, you all don't want a public option, like a cafeteria plan that allows one to pick and choose and lets people have something that will hold the insurance companies feet to the fire.

    Do yourself a favor before you totally screw up the whole deal, go try to find insurance for an individual, and one for someone who has pre-existing conditions. I know I am one and in 2008 our insurance expenditure was $17,000 in premiums, copays and deductibles and the net that the insurance paid after deductible was met in December, was less that $1,000.

    August 16, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  17. marty

    One problem with the current bills being considered is the mandatory coverage of persons who want insurance and have a pre-existing condition. That's like saying, carry just liability on your car, then if you are in an accident, you can just buy collision insurance and the company has to pay to repair your car. It isn't reasonable.

    August 16, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  18. heatflux

    Public option is very important and it will provide people with a genuine alternative.

    August 16, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  19. Anonymous

    see ya Barry..................sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet

    August 16, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  20. catmom

    Senator Conrad needs to remember that the people who elected President Obama did so in part because of his stance on health care. I hope Senator Conrad does not succumb to a small group of people who are coming out to the town hall meetings with the sole purpose of disrupting them. I think he should also remember that more than likely these people did not vote for President Obama anyway.

    Senator Conrad, if you are in fact a Democrat then perhaps you should be listening to what Democrats want, those that came out in droves to see that President Obama and Democrats were elected. We have seen what Republicans offered , which hasn't been much. Perhaps you should start HEARING what those who are not screaming, yelling and carrying signs depicting our President as a Nazi are trying to say.

    August 16, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  21. big papa

    No Public Option...

    ...major insurrection...

    August 16, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  22. Freedom

    The people have spoken they don't want the publice option they don't want the goverment running health care. The people have spoken who want a say so in their goverment. The protesters are normal people and not racist. I'm in a interacial marriage ,and my wife and I have protested for the first time in our lives. We thought it's time to get up off our sofa ,and get involved. We think goverment should not have a publice option. thank you

    August 16, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  23. Welcome to Rome

    This guy just made the most wanted list.Guess he has an island some where he can retire in after this vote.

    August 16, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  24. Justin

    I like alot of American am of two minds on this issue.

    Everyone should have access to health care.

    Now does that mean it is a right? No of course not. To try and hold yourself to such a ideal would be to say that everyone has a right to say a personal trainer. This country has gotten to the point where alot of want no responsibility for their own care. Now does that mean we as a just people can say to hell with those who cannot afford this that is a NO as well.

    What I wold like to see is the system that whoever is proposing work in reality. Take a state say California 8th largest economy in the world and show me this working and well. So me that its not some twisted pipe dream. Don't just tell me this is possible show me.

    And if a politician really wants to both gain my support respect and admiration give me a consequence if they cannot deliver on their pledge and promises. This perhaps is a great failing in the country a lack of accountability of those in office.

    August 16, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  25. Jan

    The Democrats need to use their majority both in the full chamber and the Finance Committee to get this threw. Chuck Grassley should be ashamed of himself for fueling the "unplug Grandma" line and Kent Conrad should fight for the President's plan along with other members of his party.
    I lived in Canada for 7 years and would "love" to have that type of security that the basic plan provided along with the extended benefits I bought through my employer which was the Government of the NWT.
    I was a bit disappointed yesterday that the President failed to answer the last question from the women who had had polio about "in-network" and "out-of-network" providers. I like her have a rare condition–mine congenital–which requires more than your average orthopedic surgeon to manage. I would hope that in the future I could access a "super specialist" in another state who could help me–even if I have to wait for that consultation.
    Give me a Canadian model any day. I am trying to figure out if I can immigrate back!

    August 16, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
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