August 16th, 2009
10:08 AM ET
3 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. EdV

    Like many things, the political posturing regarding the health-care legislation is like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to another. Perhaps the "public option" was included only to be removed as a good-faith compromise in order to reach an agreeable middle ground. I would think/hope, that as Americans, we accept as our duty, as an obligation, that every one of us does what is in our power to ensure ALL Americans are provided with health-care coverage. This is not socialism. This is Americans placing Americans first.

    It's a sad day when I read/see the news where extremists, who are in the minority, bully-in and overtake (i.e. destroy) what are to be open discussions of the health-care issues with their political extremist rhetoric. This is not much different than the inter-tribal fighting that going on today in the middle east – taliban vs hamas vs this tribe vs that tribe.

    I think that there's some religions that believe that if you are not with them, then you're against them. Sometimes, this idea drive groups who gain political power of one sort or another who refuse to compromise. Is this who or what the health-care extremists are? I think as Americans, we need to realize that we all can not have it only our way. If this happens, nothing gets done.

    August 16, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  2. The real Mike in MN

    If we don't get a single payer or government option, which are two totally different things but apparently a good number of you can't grasp that, then this whole debate was pointless and Obama just guaranteed himself to only be a one term president.

    August 16, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  3. Reformed Republican

    Guess Conrad's check from the health insurance industry lobbyists just cleared the bank.

    Atta boy Conrad, looks like you enjoyed seeing those "real" Americans who can't afford health care or are not coverd by their current insurance lined up for free, donated health care in LA huh....

    August 16, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  4. DA

    Those Democrats that are not in support of it should get ready to find a new job!!!
    I really don't understand why folks who are standing in these town hall screaming and hollering about healthcare don't want heathcare as good as the person standing up at a podium telling them they don't need it!!!
    HOW STUPID CAN YOU BE?

    August 16, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  5. Give me a break!

    My company of 54 pays 360,000 a year in benefits to our employees. If there is a public option why would we continue to carry our benefits and not just tell our employees to go to the public option saving the company 360,000 a year and letting the tax payers pick up the tab? How many small businesses are there in the US now? Imagine if they all did the same thing; the country simply could not pick up the bill. Some will say fine, we'll just penalize the company and fine them if they do this. That's great, then the company reduces its workforce to compensate for the fine and the unemployment rate sky rockets and the economy continues to tank.

    And I'd like to know why no one is taking aim at other industries that make tons of money. We need to eat and cloth ourselfs yet no one seems to care how much money those companies make. 1 in 9 are on food stamps because they can't afford food. If you take out the illegals that should be getting health care in the first place and then the people making more than 75k a year that can afford it themselves the ratio is about the same. So I renew my question, why aren't we going after these industries as well? I'll tell you why, it's not in the Obama Administration's best interest to do this.

    August 16, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  6. sleekgecko

    Without a public option, this legislation is going to be just a big bonanza for the insurance companies and big Pharma. Think about it. Everyone has to be insured. Who will benefit from that? With the public option at least Americans had the alternative of a government-run system that wouldn't be so profit-oriented. Obviously, this legislation is going the way of No Child Left Behind. I voted for Democrats expecting the worst but hoping for the best. Next time, I'm just not going to vote at all.

    August 16, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  7. Ray in Phoenix

    Well good, guv'ment, especially Obama's guv'ment is NOT the answer. Perhaps Obama can now focus on bringing the troops home like he said he would. Oops....

    August 16, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    This entire fiasco reminds me of Bobby Jindal. He was so against the stimulus, yet what is he doing now? Hand delivering stimulus money to the counties in his state, making as big of a show as possible to take credit for the checks he is signing.

    The same applies to Health Care Reform. After it passes - and it will - those on the right will be the first in line to credit themselves for all the good that comes from the reform, regardless of all the turmoil they have caused.

    Fortunately, this is ONE issue where American's ARE paying attention - on both sides of the floor - and I'm looking forward to what the voters will have to say in next years mid term elections.

    August 16, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. Peter

    Yes, the Democrats are finally waking up. Healthcare Reform does not require a public option. We do not need the government to get any bigger and to waste our tax dollars, just create regulations to keep private insurers in check. Without the public option, the healthcare bill will have my support.

    August 16, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  10. MAD

    Wake up silent majority and find your voice. We obviously can't depend on Conrad to do the right thing without jarring his conscience so that its volume exceeds that of his campaign purse.

    Without the public option and payment based on outcomes rather than itemized services, it is business as usual for the big insurance industry, BUT with a new glut of 47 million mandated additional customers (read... lambs to the slaughter). Why do you think insurance executives are simultaneously at the healthcare reform table, and are funding advertizing against healthcare reform? Profit is king. Your health is an afterthought.

    Imagine if just the dollars currently spent on advertizing and stockholder dividends were actually available for point of care healthcare how many fewer underserved might be lined up for free care in Los Angeles. That was a shameful visual in the greatest nation on the planet.

    Fool-me-once insurance profit machine (1994), shame on you. Fool-me-twice (2009), SHAME ON ME!

    Capitalism is a wonderful thing. It just isn't a logical model for healthcare.

    Remember, in 1965ish, the govt program called Medicare was born because no one wanted to insure the elderly, and insurance companies continued to flourish. Why should that not continue to be the case with a public option as just one of many choices in the healthcare exchange marketplace? You cry "Wolf". I'm not hearing you.

    Democrats!! Grow a spine. You are in a majority the likes of which you will not likely maintain for long. Get up every morning and pledge to do what's right. The current state of the Republican leadership is distasteful even to many life long Republicans. There will be no bipartisanship on this issue. Do the right thing on your own!

    August 16, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  11. JS007

    It breaks my heart how stupid the American people are. We have been abused for decades by the health care profiteers and yet I see so many posts on here saying "government should not be involved in health care". Hey, guess what, Medicare and the VA are government programs – does anyone lucky enough to have those programs ever even think about dropping them? NO! It's just that some Americans (young and middle class) who don't get as involved in voting or activism seem to be worth less to Washington. The retirees who have Medicare come to town halls and say "no government health care for others, now that I have my own!" Selfish, stupid, short-sighted.

    America is going bankrupt thanks to the health insurance industry and other corporate interests and the American people still drink their kool-aid. How about all of you against this do some research of your own, and not just listen to Glenn Beck? If you researched health systems around the world you'd realize that all developed countries have some form of single-payer, have much better health outcomes, at half the price. You can start by researching France.

    Only in America do people have the worst health system of any industrialized country but still keep yelling "we are number 1".

    August 16, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  12. drjay

    First of all, for all you anti-health care reform people, if you aren't in healthcare yourselves, you really have no right to speak. Period. You have no idea what you are talking about. That goes for Reggie, K, and Joe. Seriously, you did not read the bill Joe...you read one, maybe 2 lines, and have suddenly come up with a comprehensive analysis of it? I did not read the whole bill (it is over a 1000 pages) but I did read whole sections of it, not just 1 or 2 lines.

    I am a clinical pharmacist at a county hospital. I used to also manage a retail pharmacy for 5 years. I also sit on the Pharmacy & Therapeutics board of a local insurance plan, so, yes, I do know what I am talking about just like some here, especially MK. What you non-believers need to understand is how the insurance industry works. Read MK's entry. It's entirely true. You have to remember that the insurance industry is a FOR-PROFIT industry. Imagine the CEO's getting pissed if they had to cover everyone! They wouldn't make money! That's why they drop you for getting sick; for having a pre-existing condition; for forcing you to try alternatives before giving you the real thing (if you don't believe it, ask your doctor for the newest drug for your certain condition, take it to a pharmacy, and see your insurance reject it...and you worry about government control?).

    Now, a public option is important because it is competition for the whole industry. The industry can't get greedy because the government isn't in it for the money, it's in it for the people! And no, the government isn't going to run the show; it's an option. Again, read the bill (HR 3200). The idea of an exchange makes sense. More options for all people. The government can lower costs because it will use buying power and leveraging. Think about this the next time you go to Costco. Why are things cheaper there than elsewhere? Why do small mom & pops pharmacies join the Good Neighbor Pharmacy network? Joe, let me answer this for you, it is to have collective bargaining power, to allow costs of purchasing drugs to go down so that even the small guy has a chance of competing against the big guy.

    And if you think this is expensive, sure it is. But again, this is where people in the healthcare industry will understand–preventative care is the best medicine possible. I see it all the time at my hospital. Almost all our patients treat the ER as their primary care physician and they get discharged and re-admitted frequently. That costs a lot of money. Imagine how much we could save if people just took care of themselves? If they took their medication and watched their disease states, then it wouldn't have to come to more expensive therapies. If you took your metformin and watched your blood sugar and carbs, then you wouldn't have to come in with ketoacidosis and have to go on more expensive medication like Lantus. That's where the savings comes in.

    Anti-healthcare people really need to think about it. Read the bill or read a non-partisan analysis of it. Don't knock Britain or Canada's healthcare system. You don't even know anything about it! I've been to France and Canada, and everyone I've spoken to likes their healthcare. This is America, and we're going to come up with something uniquely American. That is only if you non-believers think for yourselves and not follow right- (or left-) wing emails.

    August 16, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  13. Dan

    Smoke and mirrors packed with lies!

    August 16, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  14. james

    Isn't it a shame that such a human right as universal health care always just comes down to politics? WE are supposedly the richest and most powerful nation on earth and we cant adequately cover our citizens with this basic care at a reasonable cost..we spend almost double per person on Health care than the closest rival Switzerland AND we have a lower life expectancy..how can you justify that.? You hear all this talk about rationing..isn't that what the insurance companies do now if you get sick thay cut you if you have pre existing condition they cut you..what is that if it's not rationing..I am embarassed to be an American when it comes to this subject!!!!

    August 16, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. Ray in Phoenix

    Drjay says, "First of all, for all you anti-health care reform people, if you aren't in healthcare yourselves, you really have no right to speak."

    Wow! "No right to speak". Really?

    Sorry drjay, I think you've mistaken this country for North Korea. Your kind of "thinking", and your take on Democracy is EXACTLY what the American people are rising up against.

    This is a GREAT victory for the American people.

    August 16, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  16. big papa

    I'm praying that this is mere speculation on Conrad's part...

    ...but am totally bewildered by such a weighty issue as health care reform...

    ...being controlled and decided by Senators and representatives from the least populated states!

    ... there are more moose in North Dakota than people...

    ...WHY is Kent Conrad (and other red state outpost gov't representatives) able to make such a declaration, why isn't he relegated to the committee for National Parks and Recreation?

    ...Red state inbreds do not represent the vast majority of Americans...

    ...and should be allowed (no encouraged) to LEAVE the country, if they don't like necessary CHANGE...

    August 16, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  17. james

    It seems that Mr Conrad has no backbone..I wouldn't want him representing me!

    August 16, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. teacheng

    This is ridiculous. Because a few Democratic senators have taken big bucks from the insurance companies, and because the Republicans are too busy playing politics, the American people get screwed.

    Will those couple Democratic senators support the filibuster? If so, they're in for a heap of trouble from the left and the middle.

    August 16, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  19. J.C.

    1. New Medicare Tax Rate:
    IF a business refuses to provide health insurance for their employees, I remember the House penalty rate is 8% of the employee’s payroll per year. This means the health care costs is estimated to be less than 8% of one’s annual salary with No Limit. A correct Medicare tax rate should be the result of (for example, Monte Carlo) modeling, simulation and statistical forecasting. Congressional Budget Office and President’s Executive Office can find a better rate for the new Medicare taxes than my rough estimate.

    I also think we should use Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) as the new Medicare tax basis, because the rich few may not have to work for wages and all they have is investment incomes. We certainly want the rich to pay their Medicare taxes.

    “Everyone” has to participate and pays to the public plan as a percentage of their wages or AGI with No Limit.

    2. Age-Based Premiums:
    There should be an age-based premium that collects a premium of exactly your age per month. For example, a 30 year old pays $30 per month. Older people do get sick more often so there is a need to compensate for it. But we need a temporary measure for seniors to stop paying this age-based premium after 65 for 20 years. This is only fair to those that have contributed to Medicare up to now.

    3. Co-Pays:
    In order to control costs, we must have affordable co-pays for visits and prescriptions except for preventive care.

    4. Cap for Malpractice award:
    Without a cap, everyone has to pay for the award. The cap should be some multiple of the victim’s annual salary.

    5. Double our Doctors’ Available Hours:
    No system is perfect. Doctors would rather deal with one flawed system than many flawed systems. One doctor friend told me he spent half of his time on insurance paperwork and he went to medical school to heal people. The half time saved from not dealing with different insurers will double the hours doctors have for patients. What good do competitions do for doctors and patients?

    The public plan will save us lots of money and save our economy from the downward spiral we witness right now. We can use all the money saved for creating more jobs by improving our K-12 education, discovering cures for cancer, or even going to Mars. IF we don’t stop this one-sided competition between the people and private health insurers, more jobs will be lost and nobody can afford any premiums or anything.

    Without a Public Plan, this health care or insurance reform is no reform.

    August 16, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  20. Bill or Vin from Philly

    no public option,, I'm changing to independent voter... goodbye Democrats because you are the same

    August 16, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. Mark Brown

    I want a Public Option. The insurance companies had their chance as did the Republicans. They failed.

    If the Public Option is dead, allow all American Taxpayers to join the Federal Employee Program at the next open enrollment. If I as a taxpayer pay for Senators health insurance, the least they can do is allow me to buy the same program for myself.

    August 16, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. gary davis Harbor Oregon

    if this senator and many others don't pass health reform then they can step down and we can elect someone with some balls to tell the insurance industry stick it and we will have a choice .and it will bring down the cost

    August 16, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  23. Randy

    Senator Conrad,

    You don't need 60 votes. You need 51+. Reconciliation or have you forgotten that can still be done. If the Dems really want this they can do it.

    August 16, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. GP

    Even in the minority the repubs are calling the shots.

    August 16, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  25. drjay

    Ray in Phoenix, let me guess, you didn't read the rest of my post did you? Nor are you in healthcare, I assume. Maybe before posting another useless comment, you'll have some insight to offer to the debate at hand. I'm willing to bet you or your parents are on Medicare/Medicaid and yet, you are opposed to "government-run healthcare."

    P.S. Ray, the AARP and the AMA are in support of the bill. Wow! Seniors and Doctors in support of healthcare reform? Ok, I change my mind, if you aren't educated, then you shouldn't speak.

    August 16, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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