October 14th, 2009
05:30 PM ET
9 years ago

Partisan warfare erupts over health care reform

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Prospects for bipartisan cooperation on health care reform faded Wednesday as a key Senate Democrat called his GOP counterparts obstructionist and both conservative and liberal activists attacked the sweeping $827 billion Senate Finance Committee bill.

Another top Democrat introduced legislation that would withdraw an antitrust exemption enjoyed by private insurers since the end of World War II.

The latest round of partisan bickering erupted one day after the Finance Committee approved the only health care measure so far to attract any Republican support.

"I believe that the Republican leader and all of his colleagues, with the exception of a couple there ... want to do anything that they can do not to have a bill," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

"We understand that. We understand they would rather never have a vote on this. ... I am confident if their conduct is going to be as it has been in the last while, it will only be to divert attention from what is important legislation."

Reid also testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in favor of legislation introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, that would strip insurance companies of antitrust protection enacted in 1945.

The move came two days after an insurance industry group released a report threatening to undermine Obama's assertion that it is possible to expand coverage while slowing the rate of medical inflation.

America's Health Insurance Plans released a report stating that, if enacted, the Finance Committee's bill would jack up premiums for families by an extra $4,000 by 2019. It said premiums for individuals would rise by an additional $1,500.

"The insurance industry ought to be ashamed of this report," Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, said Tuesday. "It's a powerful argument for the attitude of an industry towards this effort. There's an old saying - if you're not part of the solution you are part of the problem."

On Wednesday, America's Health Insurance Plans started running a television ad criticizing the Finance Committee bill for seeking to limit Medicare spending.

"Most people agree we need to reform health care, but is it right to ask 10 million seniors on Medicare Advantage for more than their fair share? Congress has proposed more than $100 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage," the ad states, referring to the popular private insurance plan offered by Medicare.

The ad is airing in six states: Louisiana, Colorado, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

Congressional Republicans also ripped into the bill Wednesday, warning that it would raise taxes for millions of Americans while doing little to rein in their insurance costs.

"I don't know how you can characterize anything as reform that raises premiums, raises health care costs, raises taxes and cuts Medicare for seniors," said Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.

The bill is "going to raise taxes significantly, and it's going to raise them on a lot of average Americans."

Criticism of the bill came from the Democratic base as well. More than two dozen of the nation's largest labor unions ran full-page newspaper ads in the Washington Post and elsewhere Wednesday ripping the bill for excluding a government-run public option. The ads also criticized the measure for imposing fines on individuals who choose not to purchase health insurance, as well as for taxing high end "Cadillac" coverage plans.

"Unless the bill that goes to the floor of the U.S. Senate makes substantial progress to address the concerns of working men and women, we will oppose it," the ad states.

Democratic leaders, aware of the potential liberal opposition, plowed ahead with discussions on how best to merge the Finance Committee's bill with legislation from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

The two measures differ on a range of issues, most notably the question of whether to include a government-run public health insurance option. The Finance Committee was the only congressional panel to reject the idea.

Reid, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Health Committee senior member Chris Dodd and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel met on Capitol Hill to begin sorting out the differences.

"All four of us understand that legislation is the art of compromise, consensus-building, and we're going to do that," Reid told reporters. "This is why we were elected. This is legislating at its best."

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, also in the meeting, described it as a "good conversation" and said the participants were "just eager to keep the momentum going."

Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, the lone Republican on the Senate Finance Committee to vote for that panel's plan, expressed hope that a sense of bipartisan cooperation could be restored.

Obama and other Democratic leaders should work "to build bridges and see what can happen," Snowe said on CNN's "American Morning." She also lashed out at private insurers for opposing the Finance Committee bill, which she said could create millions of new customers and provide billions of dollars in added revenue.

"This is not a solution in search of a problem. We've got rising health care costs that are going to devastate the health care system very shortly," she asserted.

–CNN's Kevin Bohn, Alex Mooney and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.

Filed under: Health care • Senate
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. DanG

    It is a must...to put limits on the controls of the insurnace industry.

    Also, there should be "NO MANDATES WITHOUT A PUBLIC OPTION"

    October 14, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  2. elizabeth

    I am glad they drop him. No one wants hateful, angry and bitter person that spurt out venom any time he opens his mouth.

    October 14, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  3. Fair_is_Fair

    I am beginning to really be disgusted with Retardicans. Why is it so hard for them to understand that basic health care is a GOOD thing for everyone. Remember...what would Jesus do? Probably help people in poor health, not back up the money people in power (Romans) or in this case.....insurance companies. I hate to use the word hate when it comes to people......BUT I HATE REPUBLICANS.

    October 14, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  4. Gary

    Nothing new here. The party of "NO" ideas will be obstructionist as usual.

    October 14, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  5. Zac, Atlanta

    Indeed, the American people need another option.

    October 14, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  6. Bill in Calif

    WELL SENATOR REID, WHEN one is on a runaway train DESTINED for disaster, people with any common sense jump off of the train. Happy landings in 2010 Dimrats.

    October 14, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  7. Ted Tartaglia

    I think Reid and Schumer are on the right track. Why should the insurance industry enjoy anti trust protection? They already have a monopoly and there is no real competition among them along with tort protection that exempts most of them from punitive damages. These crooks should have to operate in the real world instead of the fantasy world they have created for themselves supported by many legislators on both sides of the isle.

    October 14, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  8. AZ Jake

    Antitrust is the public option ...

    The insurance robbers need to be taken down a peg or three ... and the Sherman Antitrust Act is just what we, the public, need to start screaming for.

    A monopoly by any other name is still unabashed GREED.

    I like it.

    October 14, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  9. Scott, Tucson

    And these same politicians will go begging hat in hand to the health insurers for campaign donations.

    October 14, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  10. mark in Atlanta

    revoking the antitrust exemption (McCairn Ferguson, I think?) is a no brainer. That was meant to allow insurers to write policies for merchant ships when they were being torpedoed by u-boats. Been a while since that was an issue. it's just another way that our current screwed up system is in no way a truly "free market." We need a public option now. It won't destroy private insurance (it has not in the rest of the world where the rich still are able to buy platinum policies and get platinum service). It will just create a more even play field and more real competition in a market where the consumer has little freedom to say "no thanks. That's too expensive, so I will wait until next year to get my cancer treatment." Health care markets do not work like consumer electronics markets. Foolish to think they do.

    October 14, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  11. Jim

    Ms. Snowe is a clearly intelligent woman. However, she is naive. Much like the Democrats during GW Bush's second term, the Republicans are launching an all-out assault against this bill and any other initiative that might paint the President in a good light. The difference is, of course, that the Republicans, unlike their less organized opponents, will co-ordinate better, and thus make better use of the opportunity. There can be no bridge building when the only words the opposition utters are "..no...", "...socialist...", "...fascist". etc. The Republicans have expressed their dissatisfaction with this course for the entire birthing process of this bill. What have they offered as an alternative? Nothing. Zero. Nada. And that's how much attention we should pay them. None.

    October 14, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  12. mark in Atlanta

    The Republican idea of "bipartison" goes something like this: just agree to do nothing that America elected you to do and all the things I think you should do, and then we can talk. Anything short of complete capitualtion is seem as "extreme partisan politics." Nonsense. dems should do the job we elected them to do and stop bending over backwards to win the favor of bloody-minded republican bullies. Talk to Snowe. talk to Graham. Talk to anyone who has shown they are willing to have a real conversation. But stop wasting time on the entrenched radical right.

    October 14, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  13. Gee

    I think the whole thing should be dropped! There is no emergency, the country is not going to come to an end if we don't have government run health care. Its just the Dems trying to buy 30 million votes to keep themselves in power by giving away free healthcare at the expense of the majority of the country. If they want to fix the current government run health care, i.e., medicare, medecade, social security....separate these funds from the general fund like social security originally was when it was concieved and don't let the politicians get their hands on the money (keep it out of the general fund), the systems would probably fix themselves financially.....SS was fine until the government decided the fund had too much money and moved it over into the general fund. Its been down hill ever since....

    October 14, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  14. Cindy

    God, you guys... get it together! If I was Donald Trump, I'd say "You're Fired!" to all of you! You're all so ineffective!

    Ok, now that I've got that out of my system...

    Please... we need you to work together and get the bill done.. sooneth, not latest. The time for reform is NOW.

    Thank you, carry on.

    October 14, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  15. above the fray

    The insurance industry and the GOP are one and the same (follow the money). Time to kill the filibuster, pass the public option, and get on with the nation's (not the corporations') business.

    October 14, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  16. neil

    Where is the money coming from, we are broke!!!

    October 14, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  17. RANCE

    I'm sooo sick of Republicans. First, they claim no one includes them.
    Then they drag their heels and complain about everything. They all need to grow up and quick goose-stepping with each other. They are looking foolish and dumb.

    October 14, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  18. On the other hand...

    "The insurance industry ought to be ashamed of this report," Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, said
    He doesn't get it. The problem is the cost. How can these politicians bring something that costs $900 billion with the shape America's economy is in now and have the net effect be that insurance costs go up? I'll say it again and try to keep it simple. The problem is the cost.

    October 14, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  19. bawana

    and who is doing the warfare and not letting anything get done in the process,,,why it is the repugs of course all because they are not in control anymore,,,ha ha repug jerks

    October 14, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  20. indiana voter

    Another example of how liberals are afraid of Rush Limbaugh and the conservative movement.

    Liberals are just plain idiots, pure and simple.

    October 14, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  21. A 50-year Democrat no more. Now an independent with brains.

    Someone better stop OBAMA's people. They don't even have gumption to know the health care program will destroy their gravy train of free handouts.

    October 14, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  22. Dem TIl death

    As I've said before Democrats better get this one right. If they cave in to these old corporatist Republicans; they will get flogged by the people at the polls. Educated citizens are tired of supporting and being loyal to a party of no guts. And by the way Profit has to be taken out of the so called "greatest healthcare system in the world". If not now later. These idiot Republicans know it also. Never in history has medicine becomesuch a stinking profitable industry.

    October 14, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  23. BK

    The Obama administration attacks anyone that disagrees with them. I have never seen anything like it. I guess Obama is only president to people that agree with him. At least the indenpendents and the educated Dems are starting to see Obama for what he is.

    October 14, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  24. Stuart

    How embarrasing it must be for the people of New York to have a senator like Schumer. To have a senator who wants to raise taxes and take away health care benefits from the people who voted him in. What a joke.

    October 14, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  25. GuyInVA

    Senator Reid says that republicans will do anything not to have a bill. Maybe so. The over 30 bills introduced by republicans – and quashed by the democratic leadership – say otherwise, but let's give Senator Reid the benefit of the doubt. It appears the democrats in congress will do anything, and sacrifice anyone or anything, for a political victory. You have the House. You have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. Now, have some stones. Pass the bill of your choice. Republicans can do nothing to stop you. How about having this "URGENT" health care reform take effect BEFORE the 2012 elections? Sounds a little too much like ownership and accountability doesn't it?

    October 14, 2009 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
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