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. Blake

    As an outsider looking in on the American political system, the biggest problem I see when it comes to Healthcare reform and legislation in general, is that the Democratic Party is hardly united and clearly don't have a backbone. Any other country and even the Republicans have some type of party whip getting everyone into line to vote for or against whatever is presented as a bill. Like come on, this isn't the universal healthcare Hillary Clinton was talking about, it's a government set up non-profit option and a lot of regulation, making sure a minimum standard is kept up in the insurance industry and cutting the estimated 1.2 trillion of waste of 2.5 trillion healthcare spending per year.

    The Democratic party has to get some courage and do what's right for your country. Almost every other western nation (or every single one) has some form of universal coverage, all pay about half per capita on healthcare and about half the patients per doctor ratio (a good thing), but have higher life expectancy, get better treatment and are generally found healthier in many studies. Even here in Canada we pay less taxes than you and we have seen a couple recent international/binational studies that come to the conclusion that treatment here is of better quality than in the States. Out of all the Healthcare systems, ours is probably the least perfect of all the western countries, except the US. Our waiting lines for critical surguries are quite long and prioritized, but that's our problem not yours.

    My advise to Americans, if you think this plan can't work, look at the Netherlands which has a lot of private insurance. One of the best healthcare systems second only to Switzerland. If you don't tackle Healthcare reform right now, it won't be until 2012 because of midterms, the end of an Obama second term or another decade if Obama is defeated in relection. Can you afford to have no healthcare or watered down reform for that long?

    August 16, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. Justin Seine

    The public option is not going to happen! Too many well connected people are making an awful lot of money adding lots of cost to the current system but adding no value. If you were to ask some of these pocket stuffing pigs how much they earn, an honest answer would be "Nothing".
    If you asked this same group how much they make, the honest answer would be mind boggling.

    One has to ask how much of that mind boggling income finds it way into the coffers of those officials elected to represent 'We the People"?
    More than enough, I'll wager, to influence votes!

    That's why it is said that "We the People" have "The best Government that money can buy!"

    August 16, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  3. BelieveIt WhenYouSeeIt

    Great news if the "public-option" is scrapped.. but will it just be called a different name like"public cooperative"??? Who believes what a politician says??? Let's see it in writing

    Wouldn't it be great to see the savings of ObamaCare FIRST, then add the uninsured as savings are realized??? Of course, this is like "securing the borders first, then amnesty for all."

    How about cross-state competition amongst insurers, tort reform and more individual involvement with medical care as a consumer?

    August 16, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  4. Dan Robinson

    Kent Conrad should drop his government-paid health insurance and pledge never to enroll in Medicare. If he refuses to offer the rest of us a public option, then we should refuse to give him public-funded health insurance, too.

    August 16, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  5. Timothy

    I think it is essential to have a public option in the health care reform bill. The private insurance companies need competition. It will keep them more honest and force them to offer lower and more competitive rates. These senators that will not support the public option have been bought by the insurnace industry. These companies are afraid they will lose profits. Unfortuately it all come down to the issue of money and greed by the insurance companies and not the well being of the American people. Pass a health care reform bill with a public option and the American people will benefit, if not, then it is the insurance companies that win.

    August 16, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  6. peter

    Kudos " 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" . You just called it as it is!!. A senator bought by the Insurance industry using a biased platform fox news!!. Do some people still watch fox news? it plain sucks!!!

    August 16, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. J.C.

    I am an Independent, insured, and 100% for the Public Plan, because this is the most effective and efficient health care system for our future economy and generations. Please consider my proposed plan in earlier postings. Thanks!

    If we don't give the public plan a chance, those that have a job may not have one in a few years. Our economy has no room for profits for the private health insurance companies. The insurance companies use the same model as car insurance runs on people. You are not a car, are you?

    August 16, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  8. @ bob

    Many states have tort reform, Texas has it capped at 500K did it years ago, see how well its worked?

    August 16, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. Tell us something we havent known for years

    The Health Insurance Industry has been killing children and the elderly for years,why should they stop now?

    August 16, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. MCB

    I wonder...will the Senate and House join the general public and use the public health plan for their own? Or..will they continue to use the
    far superior plan for themselves? Also...they would perhaps look
    at Social Security better if they were participating in it instead of the lucrative plan of their own. Who out their knows (not everyone) that the interest on the money we all pay for social security is not paid into social security and produced compounded interest for our fund. Each time I hear how weak and broke social security is it makes me furious – the government takes the interest from social security funds for other uses. Imagine if our social security fund could grow with its own interest – it would be healthy and perhaps even help medicare.
    I have given up hoping any politician would discuss this – it affects
    their own well-being too much. I'm sad that I can't trust any of them.

    August 16, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  11. johnrj08

    Thanks to the public disinformation campaign waged by the insurance industry and the lunatic fringe of the GOP, the public option is probably dead. Between all the nut cases screaming about "death panels", "rationing care", and "government take over", health care reform is hanging by a thin thread. It is a shameful commentary on the quality of our educational system and insidious corporate influence that can create an environment where something every American needs and will benefit from is going to go down in flames. We're a bunch of pathetic, gullible, easily manipulated, ignorant people.

    August 16, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  12. why

    screw the bipartisan ship. pass the bill by reconciliation in the senate. i am sure they can get 51 votes.

    republicans screwed this country up so bad in the reign of bush, and now, with they buddies in the insurance industry and their echo chambers and faux anger, they will ensure that we continue going downhill... at least thats what it seems like they want.

    August 16, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  13. Hea

    Stupid Stupid Stupid...Lets vote all these democrats who aren't for a public option and bought off by the insurance industry, out in 2010. Vote for someone who is willing to support the public option. This depresses me more than ever that a couple of right wing people yelling at rallies and the insurance industry can scare these democrats into submission. Very disappointing.

    August 16, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  14. Peoples Voice

    Take a very close look at the face on the picture associated with this story.

    You are looking into the face of pure evil.

    August 16, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  15. Tom

    Public health option is the only way to way from for-profit and fake-non-profit entities which all have GREED in the play.

    August 16, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  16. Larry

    I guess as long as senate and congressional members have their own cushy little taxpayer paid for health insurance, the rest of us Americans will continue to have to fend for ourselves

    This country is not a Democracy ... it's a Hierarchy, where we mere peasants have little value or meaning to the Kings, Queens and Prince's above us us all

    Our political leaders are a joke ...

    August 16, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  17. Bob

    So democracy does work after all, in spite of the objections of Obama and the Democrat-Controlled Congress. What an inconvenience a Town Hall meeting is to liberals. It encourages free speech (which they demonize as "fishy" and justification for creating an enemies list supplied to them by rats. What an inconvenience to them is to delay a hasty decision, and be forced to read the bill, and take hard questions from a disillusioned but agressive citizenry. They can call We, the People, "evil-mongers," "birthers," "deathers," and "un-American" and they are stunned to find that such tripe doesn't work.

    The ethos of August of 2009 (The Month of the Town Hall Meeting) will go down as more important than the mythos of August of 1969 (Woodstock). We don't want your socialism. We don't want your State Control. Hey, Liberal, leave us all alone!

    August 16, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. Larry

    Is there any way that " We The People " can fire all these elected bums at once and start over

    Anything would be better than a bunch of lazy do nothings up in Washington sitting around doing nothing but collecting their pay

    """ YOUR FIRED """""

    We The People have spoken ......

    August 16, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  19. Whitemaleconstructionworker

    This marks a victory for the consrvative anti-establishment protestors that braved acorn and union thugs to voice their opinons at the town halls. My hats off to them.
    Gobal Warming is a Hoax!

    August 16, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. Gianni

    The so-called "public option" is an abmination and deserves to die a horrible death. You know what will happen with a public option? It will allow many small businesses, and even larger ones that provide health insurance to their employees, to drop coverage for them and force them onto the public rolls. All this will create is an unchallenged government monopoly over healthcare, so rather than create competition, the public option will kill it. No one wants a government monopoly over health care, and this will be the utlimate result of a public option.

    And Obama has lied so much so far, there is no reason to trust him when he says this will not happen. No one should trust anything Obama says on this matter. For example, he said that his administration's negotiations with big pharma and other major players in health care would be above board, transparent, and covered live on C-span. Uh, nope, never happened. In fact, the Obama is cutting secret, back room deals with big pharma as we speak. The guy's a pathological liar, and has gone back on so many of his campaign promises that I have lost count.

    August 16, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  21. cara

    What is the word right before Senator Conrad's name –?? DEMOCRATIC. My party is failing for one reason: they don't understand what the Republican party is so brilliant at. . . as Democrats our JOB is to support the party and the leadership. You never hear of a Republican failing out of step with their party. They ALL stand lock-step and sign whatever stinking legislation comes down from their White House. Including funding things such a trillion $$ war that was against their highest holy principle of fiscal responsibility.

    It's time the Democrats in the Congress look in the mirror and decide to dance with the one that brung 'em. They must either distinguish themselves from the Republicans or risk looking a whole lot like them (and become the party of NO on health care reform). Right now they are not behaving with the discipline necessary to skip lunch never mind pass a massive piece of legislation that will remedy a vast portion of our country's economic and human suffering.

    August 16, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  22. Patrick

    Cooperatives, will not work as it stands. Wake up America to next big financial crisis that is about to hit us all. Is the fact that health care is out running inflation. This is leading us into some very dangerous points. 1.) business survival and expansion(One key to the economy). 2.) families facing survival faced by costs of rising health care(Second key to a part of the economy).

    August 16, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  23. jules sand-perkins

    I'm blessed that it's dead. I hope it doesn't rise again.
    It should rest in peace forever.

    August 16, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  24. sactownmandy

    It would be a wonderful world if it were all possible, but the fact is that THE USA IS BROKE.

    WE CAN'T AFFORD ANY HEALTHCARE PROPOSAL RIGHT NOW, let alone the creation of a huge government bureacracy to run healthcare.

    And with continued government spending at the rate that wer're spending at, we are doomed as a nation.

    The priority right now should be to cut spending, stimulate businesses with lower taxes and create JOBS.

    August 16, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  25. Shayne from NH

    Sounds like Sarah Palin--a quitter.

    August 16, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
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