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. Keeth in California

    Conrad is a coward. Americans can do ANYTHING. He's just giving up because the task is too hard and it might cost him his seat. Where are politicians who are willing to do the right thing even if it means losing the next election?

    August 16, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  2. rob geneve

    Why can't the co-operatives do for healthcare what credit unions have done for banking?
    Those of you who say that co-ops will have no effect on cost are blind to the most basic of economic principles.

    August 16, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  3. T Myles

    If the Public Option fails because of "Democrats" it is time for Democrats to sweep the fakers aside – contribute to their opponents in coming elections and defeat them certain. I and many others voted to put the Dems in charge to do what we, the voters, want – not what the insurance, drug and financial services gang dictate with their cash purchase of pols.

    August 16, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  4. burgette

    I can't speak for other Democrats but this is a deal breaker for me. That's what I tell them when the DNC, DCCC, or any other organization calls and asks for a contribution (because it's "imperative" that we keep the Dems in the majority) I just tell them, when you pass a health care bill that covers every American call me back. If you don't get it done, don't bother calling because I won't be a Democrat any more. After all, I'm an old woman. Nothing the Republicans can do is going to affect me that much. But if I can't get something out of the Democrats for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, why should I give a dam* who's in charge. I repeat, this is a deal breaker for me. I won't forget and I won't forgive.

    By the way, JC, if you come to souther Illinois and run for public office you've got my vote. Which ever party ticket you run on.

    August 16, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  5. Mike McKee

    You might wanna listen next time to what a contender is saying instead concerning yourself with what their wearing. Or, what they like to eat, or, what kind of dog they are going to buy. Or, what color his skin is. They all say change, the thing is that their talking about what's going into their pockets after the election. And, someone is making some pretty big jingling noise right about now. Can ya hear it? Jingle jingle. That's the change you been hearing about these last few months. Jingle Jingle. Speaking of that, what do you think your heating bills are going to be like this jingle bell season? Jingle jingle! Food's expensive now, how bout this winter? Jingle jingle! Better start opening your gob and let your congressthief no you're on to him.

    August 16, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. Marlene

    It's a good thing that Sen. Conrad is not representing me in Michigan. The trouble with the Senate is that they have left things to just 6 Senators – 3 repubs. & 3 Dems. Everyone else has coverage in the political process, but it also means that the bill that will be reported out of committee won't be worth the paper it is written on. I'm going to be so disappointed, and since I'm already in my late 50's in another 60 years when this reform idea comes up again I'll be dead. So Repubs. & Blue Dog Dems, pat yourself on the back. You lined your pockets and killed the hope! Hey, your very own "DEATH PANEL"!!!

    August 16, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  7. Bush was the best

    Pound OBAMACARE up your liberal jerks!!!! If you are uninsured, to bad...get a job!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 16, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  8. matt

    The public option is a government take over of health care, and the public knows this, that is why the vast majority of america is so upset. That is also why obama tried to rush it through before the august recess, before the public had any chance of reading what is currently in HR 3200. We voted for this guy and then he tries to pull a fast one on us. That is not the guy I thought I was voting for. We should reform what we currently have, not try to run health insurance companies out of business because obama doesn't like them. He does not speak for all of amercia, apparently he does not speak for very many americans, which is obivous when poll numbers show the vast majority does not support his personal opinions and views on this matter. The average income for the 46 million uninsured is $75,000.00 I have never made that much money in one year in my life, and I still buy health insurance for my family because I love them, I would pay triple what I currently pay because I love them . If you make that much money and you don't buy health insurance for you and your family then that is your choice, but you did not buy it because you did not have enough money. Some people would rather buy an SUV with big rims or a house that they cannot afford than buy health insurance for their family. But again that is their choice, that is what is beautiful about america, WE HAVE THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE!

    August 16, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  9. Francis Loring

    tell sen kent conrad & all Democrats re to a public option in health care reform there better be or he will be looking for another job
    come election time & all the other democrats that cave into the
    private insurance companies & drug companies
    i am fed up with all the false advertising coming from insurance companies & the far right re to heath care reform
    we don't need the republicans to pass this bill
    iam a senior & i am happy with medicare
    iam also fed up with the comments that health care is not a right
    for all americans citizens it is
    I did not appreciate the comment from one republican senator saying if you want the health care insurance i am getting you go & work
    for the federal gov like i do that comment was made by a Senator up
    for election in 2010

    August 16, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  10. Bozwell

    I just love seeing all the clowns talking about how if a representative or senator doesn't go ahead and pass this government takeover of our health care that they will be voted out of office next election.
    These people in office have become acutely aware of what will get them thrown out of office, they aren't geniuses, but they can count well enough to realize that if they try and ramrod this takeover though they will be out of a job. You simply don't step on the toes of 85% of the public to appease 15% of the public.
    Government can't do anything better than the private sector, not one single thing. The last thing the public needs is for a bunch of government paid bureaucratic clowns deciding whether or not they are of enough value to our society to warrant healing.

    August 16, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  11. NeoCon from Hell

    "FOX NEWS" Rocks baby. All you left wing scumbags, and your Messia OBAMA, can stick it.............

    August 16, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  12. obamalimey

    Here we go again the Senior citizens who elected Bearick Obama are now double crossing him to maintain Medicare ,which we can't afford. They did the same thing to Bush when he wanted to save Social Security.
    The Bernie Madoff generation wants to keep raping the young in this country , until they are all gone and leave us to pay the bill.

    August 16, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  13. Robert

    Conrad makes me sick. As do the other conservative Democrats who are more Republican than Democrat.

    Explain this: If we end up with non-profit co-ops as these yahoos are going to force us into – how will that cover the unemployed? What kind of premium will it bring them? How do you get into a co-opp? Apply? Who decides? Can you be rejected for a pre-exisiting condition? You know, the other members don't want someone in their group who may make their rates go up....

    How do co-ops cover everyone?

    Worse, employers now pay 2/3 of the cost for insurance... with co-opps, there may be an overall reduction is cost, but without the employer contribution to it the cost to individuals is likely to be much more than it is now.

    The public option is the only way to do this right.

    Why is society so ready to accept for-profit corporations between us and our health? Between us and financial ruin? Why would we let corporations have that kind of power over us?

    August 16, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  14. S M R

    Obviously Sen. Conrad is in bed with the Insurance Companys and we will vote out all who resist our attempt to pass health care reform. Your choice Senator.

    August 16, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  15. Mike Caetano

    If Conrad intends to filibuster the public option he should say so rather than pretend that it's beyond his control.

    August 16, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  16. ringo185

    The simplest way to get a good health and retirement plan is to require that the members of Congress, Executive branch and the Judicial system be covered with the same plan as that adopted for the public at large.

    This would eliminate the two-class system. Congress would then get serious, rather than playing politics.

    August 16, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  17. Mike McKee

    Hey Senator Conrad! Where'd ya get them pretty spectacles? They look a might pricey! Mind telling me what your copay was? Having no insurance at all, I don't know what I'd do if I had to pay a copay. See? We do have it better than you, we don't have to pay a copay! Ahuhlk, ahuhlk. I needs me some a those. bin five years since my last pair. I use to be able to afford it cause I had one of those 20 dollar an hour jobs but, then your friends in the mortgage biz screwed that up. Now I don't make anything. Ha, but don't you worry about that, I'd rather pay for your insurance so you can have the best. Ahuhlk ahuhlk.

    August 16, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  18. alvino

    Does the health care industry control every elected official in a red state?

    August 16, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  19. CJinZonie

    First I am shocked at some of the posts here.
    1. "You have no right to speak?" This is a crazy thought. It is still a free country.

    2. "Humans rights to healthcare?" Sorry I missed that sentence in the welcome to earth handbook. Nobody has a right to something that your neighbor is forced to pay for.

    3. "Republicans are killing the healthcare bill" Just because the media refuses to print the truth does not mean everyone has to blindly believe what they see written. People of all parties oppose government health care. The far left wants it, the far right is scared of it but the reality is the "balanced sane people" of this country see it for what it would be.......a mess. There is no doubt there needs to be some reform in regards to medical care and the outrageous prices we legal citizens all pay for it. But, universal care and government control are not the answers. Come on people are we all so lazy and helpless that we cannot be involved enough in our own country to make changes happen? Giving the government control of everyrthing is just stupid. Remember it is "by the people, for the people". But this concept only works when people actually get involved. More government is Never the answer. It always increases taxes no matter what they promise.

    August 16, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  20. BH

    I can't believe the Democrats are backing down on this issue. Our health system is a disaster. And I'm one of the many long-time Republicans who voted for Obama because I felt the Democrats had a real shot at fixing the corrupt United States healthcare system. Don't back down Democrats!!! Don't pay any attention to the few idiots at town hall meetings denouncing change; they are clueless people.

    August 16, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. dante

    If the public health insurance option dies, it will represent a victory against Pres. Obama and the Democrats penchant for driving the country toward socialism.

    August 16, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  22. Pete

    America is the home of the free and the brave, them why we have to be slaves to some members of Congress from both sides, that won't
    do a thing for the good of the mayority of American people that elected
    them to serve in Congress, but do the bid to the special interest that
    give them most money. We the people support members of Congress and their families with our tax dollars, when sometimes we can not feed our own families. It is time to support Indenpendent candidates and fire Conrad and others in the next elections.
    We can not be called the home of the free and the brave, when we
    lack courage to fire elected officials that refused to work for a bettter

    August 16, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    a gov insurance plan will cost you money it sounds like every one thinks it will be free the only ones who will get it free are low income people who the hard working taxpayer will have to support the same people who who dont have it now because there to lazy to work or do what they need to improve there lot in life i myself am tired of obama telling me i have to support every body you idiots cant see he is going to bankrupt this country how much added tax do you think the over 250,000 crowd can pay health reform is needed start with waste and fraud put limits on malpractice so doctors are not paying ten or more thousand a month in insurance then watch cost go down improve it dont change it all thanks David

    August 16, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
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