September 9th, 2009
05:34 PM ET
9 years ago

Snowe: Obama should drop public option from health-care debate

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A key Republican senator in health-care negotiations said Wednesday that President Barack Obama should drop his push for a government-run public insurance option.

Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine said in an interview with CNN that deep divisions over a public option were holding back progress on crafting a bipartisan health-care bill.

Republicans unanimously oppose a public option, describing it as step toward a government takeover of health care. Democrats reject that claim, saying the public option would be one choice for consumers who could decide instead to select private coverage.

"People are rightly skeptical of a government-run health-care system, of the government interfering with medical decisions, so I would hope we can take it off the table," Snowe said of the public option.

Dropping the provision "might accelerate the process and build momentum, refine the debate and move it in a different direction than reinventing the wheel in a public option where there's no support among Republicans," Snowe said.

The issue has dominated the health-care debate and generated some of the most heated opposition at town meetings held by House and Senate members on their recent August break.

Obama has said he supports a public option, but also has indicated an openness to alternatives that would make health insurance more accessible and affordable through greater competition.

Snowe confirmed Wednesday a story CNN reported last week - that she has been discussing with the White House her idea for a triggering mechanism that would create a public option in the future if specific thresholds for expanding health-care coverage were not met.

"I recognize that we've sort of stepped up our conversations about it, but whether or not that will be a preferred alternative remains to be seen," Snowe said. "But that may be one way to bridge the gap."

Moderate Democrats who are uneasy with a public option, such as Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, have said they could support a trigger mechanism. Such support could gain a health-care bill the 60 Senate votes necessary to overcome any filibuster attempt by Republicans.

Snowe is one of six members of the Senate Finance Committee - three Democrats and three Republicans - who have spent months negotiating a possible health-care compromise bill.

The talks are considered the last chance to achieve a bipartisan bill in Congress, but the White House and top Democrats question whether Republicans will support any health-care bill.

Committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, said Wednesday he would bring the bill before the full panel in coming weeks regardless of whether it has Republican support.

Snowe, considered by many Democrats as the lone Republican senator who might vote for a health-care bill, said she understands why Baucus is moving ahead and that it won't jeopardize chances for reaching agreement.

A deal by the negotiators would give her something to take to other Senate Republicans to try to generate more support, she noted.

"I think it's very hard for our colleagues to agree to a plan that we have yet to agree on," Snowe said, adding: "You can't really get people on board when you don't have anything."

Filed under: Congress • Health care • Olympia Snowe
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Stop Supporting the Lazy

    Exactly. Less government. Stop the madness!!!

    September 9, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  2. Tommy

    Well, there goes healthcare reform!

    The downfall of real healthcare reform brought to you by America's healthcare lobby and major television media outlets.

    CNN, making America stupider since 1980!

    September 9, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  3. Charlie Brown

    No public option, huh?

    Then you'll be just delivering 40 + million new customers to the insurance companies.

    Talk about the idiotic American citizen being screwed

    September 9, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  4. party of five

    NO...NO...NO... If we don't have a public option, it's not health care reform... It's just smoke and mirrors...

    September 9, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  5. Will

    Public Option = competition. It's the height of free market. We need it to keep the insurance companies marginally honest.

    Inurance companies goal is to MAKE MONEY. Not to heal you.

    September 9, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  6. Vets4Obama

    "You can't really get people on board when you don't have anything."

    We DO have something. It's called a Public Option. End of story. Now, you don't have to agree. Let's push it through with a majority vote, that means 51.

    And about TORT reform, it's retarded. They tried it in Texas. Health Care Costs continued to spiral out of control. Only a moron thinks that incompetent doctors are going to pass on their savings. It's the republicans newest version of the proven to fail theory of Trickle Down Economics.

    I do agree with plans being portable across state lines though. And hey, a Government Plan would be portable across all FIFTY states. That's what I'm saying!

    September 9, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  7. Patriot

    The President doesn't need Snowe or any Republican telling him what to do. He WON the election and the Democrats are in power.

    Why should they give that power away to a party that protects the profits of the health insurance industry, and wants to see the President fail at every turn?


    September 9, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  8. Lilarose

    Public takeover? Really?

    What in heck is Medicare? What about SOCIAL security? Both programs of which I am a recipient.

    I don't give a tinker's dang what the Republicans want. Too bad if they don't get anything they want.

    I WANT A PUBLIC OPTION! I have family and friends who need this!

    Give it up about giving the poor tax credits to buy insurance. They don't even fill out tax returns, morons!

    Snow, you live too well. You need to live like the most of us, lady. I appreciate your help, but if you don't give us the public option, we will do our best to be sure YOU have NO insurance as a spoiled member of congress.

    September 9, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  9. Rob

    How can you people say 74% want a public option, in what poll is that found. And explain to me why you people think a public option will work if the administration can't even run cash for clunkers right.

    September 9, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  10. government interfering with medical decisions

    don't they already do this to some extent with medicare?

    September 9, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  11. Felonious Monk

    Does anyone remember when the banks wrote bankruptcy legislation and brought it to the republicans. This was during the bush era. The republicans rammed this legislation through and our bankruptcy protection was taken away. The wealthy still have loopholes, and so does industry. Americans will remain in debt until death, and then the next generation can bear the debt on their backs.
    The republicans did not and still do not concern themselves with the many. Their pockets are lined and the blood is on their hands.

    Government is...disturbing

    September 9, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  12. Josh in TN

    Snow needs to shut up on this. The public option is what capitalization is all about, great competition so that prices won't get out of control. The reason these right wingers don't want the public option is because they own all the stock in these hospitals that are keeping their pockets going. This allows them to feel superior and treat people of color like they don't matter. I hope Obama breaks their a...

    September 9, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  13. mjm

    74% of the people want REFORM, not a public option.

    The so called public option has dominated the discussion and we need to move on. IT WAS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. It was a very bad idea in a very bad bill / bills. Believe me, anyone who is crying about a public option would never have been able to afford the taxes that came with it. Let it go.

    Real reform does not cost 1.7 trillion.

    September 9, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  14. jules sand-perkins

    Is it really reform that you want? If so, listen to Snowe and others like her.
    I don't think everybody wants reform.
    Many freeloaders just want another welfare handout.
    Given the cash instead of health-care insurance, many entitled citizens would spend it on drugs and vacations.

    September 9, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  15. Simmy

    Collin's influence caused major programs to be dropped from the stimulus bill.....Now Snowe comes along and wants to drop the public plan option from the table.....With all due respect, Sen. Snowe, you are truly another sell out.......I would call you a skank, but I rise above that notion....Your party lost, President Obama gives you too much credibility.....When you do something that makes you stand out from the muck and mire in your party, I might take you seriously....

    True Dems, do your best to pass a proper bill without Republicans and those sorry blue chihuahuas......

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  16. Nea

    I dont give a crap about what option it will be but i do know that doing nothing is not an option! As long as its real reform that would really benefit all Americans whether they like it or not thats all that matters to me and YES! i have health insurance.

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  17. eolufemi

    The public option is not a hand out. People who choose the public option will have to pay for it, just like they would any other insurance.

    It's simply a matter of choice.

    People who like big government can choose a public option to enroll in.

    People who like big business can choose a private plan to enroll in.

    The big question shouldn't be about a public option but rather about a government mandate that citizens have to buy a particular service or good from a private enterprise.

    Can you imagine the government mandating that Americans send their kids to private schools?

    To me, its ridiculous for the government to mandate something it doesn't provide. You're basically telling Americans to work so that they can pay insurance companies whatever they demand.

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  18. fiscalfighter

    Surprise! Just wait. There will be a public option as part of the plan tonight. The only alternative to a public single payer system that actually controls costs would be the model used by Germany–a fiercely regulated insurance industry–with insurance made mandatory for all citizens. Since those with no money get it for free, so it's essentially a public option anyway. Problem is, you know how those Republicans feel about regulating. I'd feel better about this if so much PAC money wasn't going to Republicans these days.

    September 9, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  19. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Well, welcome back to the republican party and the REAL world, Olympia. I was afraid that we were about to lose you to the Democratic Socialist Party of that corrupt embicile from Pennsylvania.

    September 9, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  20. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    Unless Senator Olympia Snow is willing to pay for all the extra health costs for the lack of the Public Option. Calculations based on modeling and simulation show that the Public Option is the most economical system for health care. When will we elect senators who know some math and statistics?

    September 9, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  21. Emmanuel Goldstein

    Just remember one thing. . . .

    After the public option comes to full fruition, virtually every player in the health care industry, except those that cater to paying clients, will be, in essence, a government employee or on the government dole.

    Employers will dump private plans because it is a lot cheaper to do pay the surtax, and iInsurance companies will exit the business (you wanted them gone anyway so no problem). Providers in affluent areas will stop taking the gov. insurance or lower their standards of care, and the providers that take gov. insurance will be much lower quality. Pharma cos. will become nonprofits,and new discoveries will essentially stop since researchers that are being paid by government contract for work, not results, will milk the job for all its worth. Hospitals that aren't in affluent areas will close or be taken over by the government. Nursing home workers will have to have their palms greased so that Grandma gets clean sheets and her bedpans changed.

    So, unless you can afford private care, you are trusting your health and your lives to people who have the same motivation to work as those who take your license photo.

    Good luck with that hope and change.

    September 9, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  22. steven harnack

    Well I say not having a public option is a step by republicans to keep selling the government to the highest bidders who are without a doubt the insurance conglomerates that rake in billions before anyone even sees an asprin or a bandaid.

    September 9, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  23. michaelam

    Looks like the insurance industry and big Pharma got to Senator Snowe and I was actually liking her. Too bad that the Republicans cannot do what is best for the people and our country as a whole. Amazing how during the last election we saw all these obstructionists carrying around signs that said, " Country First." What a bunch of hypocrites!

    September 9, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  24. Ken Williams

    Where the heck do you people get your facts. 70% of people approve the current plan. A poll that just came out today said 52% of Americans disprove of this plan. If Snowe came out against this plan it says something; she always votes with the Dems.

    September 9, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  25. Exasperated

    You can drop the public option only if you have the major health insurance carriers onboard. They control the networks, costs, access etc. The small and mid-size carriers are out of the business, The ones left are large and usually multi-state. They do have the experience and know how. But a lot of work would have to go into making things fair for all....patient, doctor and carrier. But since these are the very companies hiring lobbyists against reform the question is will they help and cooperate???

    September 9, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
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