October 16th, 2009
01:13 PM ET
5 years ago

Harkin: Final health care bill will have public option

Sen. Tom Harkin promised Friday that a health care bill will be on President Obama's desk before Christmas.
Sen. Tom Harkin promised Friday that a health care bill will be on President Obama's desk before Christmas.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the Democrat who chairs one of the Senate committees tasked with developing health care legislation, promised Friday that a health care bill will be on President Obama's desk before Christmas and will include a so-called "public option."

"I believe we are in an irrevocable position," Harkin said on a conference call organized by the health care reform group Families USA. "The momentum is there. We will not get stopped by the obstructionists. We will have the votes."

Harkin became chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee after the former chairman, the late Ted Kennedy, passed away in September. His committee has already passed a more liberal version of the health care bill that includes a public option - legislation that will have to be merged with the bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week before the Senate can vote on final legislation. Democrats need sixty votes to end debate before a vote can held.

Pointing to a Thursday meeting of Senate Democrats in which most members of the caucus expressed support for a government-run insurance plan, Harkin said only five members of his party are holding up progress toward a such a plan.


"Should the five come on board with the vast majority?" Harkin asked. "I think the answer is clear."

But Harkin also said he was open to legislation that includes health care co-ops, as long as they are offered as a choice alongside a public option.

The Iowa Democrat estimated the final health care bill should cost $900 bill over 10 years and will mandate that all Americans purchase some kind of health insurance.


Filed under: Health care • President Obama • Tom Harkin
soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. Lamin

    Some Republican senate has to accept the reality about difficulties most American Families are face and that national interest overide individual or company interest.America's current health care system
    is a national disgrace.
    If bipartisan approach is offered by this Administration why can't they come forward with their suggestion for health care reform in the interest of American people rather than pointing fingers on baseless claims about the reform even though people are dieing.Rember most of those electorate has no idea how the state operates All they are after is representative who can make their voice and pleas had.Some Republican senate may not support/vote for the implementation of Health Reform but they can vote infavour of wars in the name of protecting America.Seriously are laws enforce on top political figures?no all they can do is apologise or resign fact.
    Health insurance to run by private insurers is a legal fraud, they are only in for profit,therefore Americans are better off with state own insurance affordable to low income earners and a policy for unemployed and undocumented.Most of those Republicans against the Health reform would not sleep in a car park neither will they wait for 7hrs just to see a dentist,sad politics.

    October 16, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  2. jfs Memhis, Tn

    The majority of American's are all praying that Sen. Harkin is right on this............its about ALL of us and our health and security ...and...that care is available when required. The insurance companies have been unashamed of their greed ........... we Americans should not be fearful to stand-up against such greed and lack of compassion for our people.

    October 16, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  3. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, North Carolina

    The efforts by Congress to screw up health care in the US have little enough chance of passing, even without turning it into yet another Nanny State entitlement. With the "public option." it has no chance at all of passing.

    The US can't afford another multi-trillion-dollar give-away, especially to welfare bums to irresponsible, improvident, or indolent to pay their own bills.

    October 16, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. Laura in KS

    It's really delightful to know that the crazy Republicans will have to endure so much misery, hatred, and fear for the next 3 years (at least) under Obama–I'm actually hoping for 7years of it :) Hey guys, you reap what you sow. It's your own choice if you wanna be miserable–idiotic, yes, but hey, that's the beauty of America!

    October 16, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  5. billy ray sayles

    Keep the presure. This is a important moment in history, and the Republicans will feel the pain if they do not come aboard.

    October 16, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  6. Lee in Oregon

    Senator Harkin is absolutely correct in insisting that a public option be included in healthcare reform. Otherwise the insurance companies will continue to GOUGE the public with their outrageous premiums and additional costs plus give those who cannot afford medical coverage the opportunity to buy in at a rate they can afford.

    If everyone pitches in we ALL save money. This is a no brainer. Reform is national concern in which all Americans should cooperate. With or without Republicans this bill SHOULD pass with a public option. It is a MUST.

    October 16, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. RTB

    That is what the public wants and needs like the rest of the civilized world.
    Thank you Mr. Harkin for all your efforts.

    October 16, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. Laura in KS

    I am of the opinion that health insurance should not be the responsibility of the employer. It also shouldn't be a privatized industry, since profit is the main ideal behind industry, and no price should ever be put on a human life. It is immoral for insurance companies to decide who lives and who dies. At least if the gov't ran healthcare, everyone would have equal access to necessary care, no matter the cost.

    October 16, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  9. Richard

    Sounds good to me. Now lets see it happen.

    October 16, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  10. Christine

    With public option like that SSS is not giving COLA for 2010? Should we trust the government to fix the problem ? As a mere citizen, the government better focus on unemployment, the more jobs the more americans will get health case benefis from job employment. This entitlement program just encourage Americans to be lazy. I understand many deserving Americans that cannot get a job for health reason, they are okay to be help through either SSS or Medicare. But those lazy ones that don't want to go to school, get a job, that is something else. The wealth of this country is in its citizen will power to work hard and not from controlling government employees whether Whitehouse, Congress or Senate.

    October 16, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  11. Kim

    There aren't many politicians that I here about that I like.

    Just the fact that you don't hear much about this guy is the very reason I like him. Co-ops and a public option... the more competition the better.

    These insurance companies should be slapped down like the cigarette companies in the 90's. When I hear the term "health insurance" i think of wallstreet corporate greed.

    October 16, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  12. BestProfitCompany = WAR

    Finally, America is joining the civilized countries (not completely but close) by having a government run health care option. We are moving from third world country to first world country... and it only took us about... 80 YEARS!!!

    October 16, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  13. Jimtrans

    Good for them. We're sick of hearing how "most" Americans across the country are against the Public Option. If that is true, why is it that "most" of the people I know support it. Why wouldn't they. This pandering and hayday lobbying effort by the issurance companies says it all. If we do what is right and rain in health care costs via increased competition (like a public option would), that would save everyone money; with the exception of the insurance companies who have been the culprits of out of control Insurance prices. When a family like mine is forced to hold down 3 jobs just so we can afford insurance for me, my wife, and 2 children, I will not loose any sleep over executives in the health care industry not getting their 20-30 million in bonuses every year.

    October 16, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  14. Dave

    Folks who want a Government run Health Care system are the obstructionists and will derail any hope of passing ANYTHING before next years mid-term elections. Why? Because they are unwilling to tell America how much this will cost and how we will pay for it.

    I would be in favor of a Government run Health Care system and completely eliminate Health Insurance all together if our elected leaders could figure out how to pay for it without increasing the defiect or cutting Medicare / Medicaid. I would be willing to pay more in taxes to do so even double what I currently pay for health insurance from my company

    October 16, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  15. Irene Baur

    If this Congress does not pass a public option, I, and others I know will be picketing in the streets, and making "a lot of noise!" I fObama "chickens out," he will never be seen as the leader of this country. It's time for the Republicans to shut the hell up! Excuse my language, but it's time for the Democrats to start leading.

    October 16, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. Annette

    Without a robust option or public exchange, like what exist for congressional staff, there will be no reform nor cost savings. The health insurance companies really don't care about options, because they are enjoying the monopoly of dividends they are currently receiving. This is the time, this is the opportunity to get it done and get it done right for the people of this country who get up every day and go to work, those who keep this economy growing. It's time for real healthcare reform. A sick nation is a poor nation in the end.

    October 16, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  17. What's Up Doc?

    Tom, when you get back to Des Moines, perhaps you'd better tell Grassley!

    October 16, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  18. Lila

    If I am forced to buy insurance I want a public option!

    October 16, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  19. Independent_me

    I hope you mean what you say, Sen. Harkin!
    The Insurance industry has had god-knows-how-many-years to operate responsibility and they just gouged us while fattening their CEO's with the profits that they squeezed from us. But for those fat compensation packages, our premiums would be lower.

    The Democrats who do not vote for a public option must be kicked out of office and relpaced with true Democrats who will give the people what they want! They are just appeasing the Republicans and the insurance industry!

    October 16, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  20. Bedtime for Obonzo

    Hope all of you healthy, young Obama supporters are looking forward to your mandatory purchase of a Cadillac insurance plan, or risk being fined $900+ each year. Today, you can make the rational economic choice of merely buying a low cost catastrophic policy. If this thing passes, however, you will all buy Sen. Harkin's Cadillac, whether you need it or not.

    October 16, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  21. Tommygunn

    It is about TIME!

    Let's make sure it IS NOT FREE and COSTLY on our KIDS!!!!

    I do BELIEVE DEMOCRATS are SOCIALLY and FIDICIARY conscience of the balance between SMART GOVERNMENT and SILLY POLITICS. They are open to others and against exclusion.

    By being LIBERAL or PROGRESSIVE actually means they are willing to restructure boundaries and build new structures when appropriate.

    I also BELIEVE REPUBLICANS are FIDICIARY concerned about the balance between BIG GOVERNMENT and SIMPLE POLITICS. They are either you are with me or against me.

    Being both CONSERVATIVE and RESPONSIBLE actually means they are willing to draw boundaries and hold accountability when appropriate.

    The modern day INDEPEDENT want to be either DEMOCRAT or REPUBLICAN, but between the bickering and mud slinging. They are camilians when it fits their needs or feelings.

    And for those DEMOCRATS and REPUBLICANS that go to the INDEPENDENT stance, good for you. You are looking for a balance of the facts, putting feelings aside.

    October 16, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  22. karen

    I hope you get it Tommy....I pray that you do.

    May god keep the president and the democrats who are pushing for the public option in his light.......

    October 16, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  23. katiec

    Senator Harkin deserves alot of credit.
    He is truly fighting for us, the American people, for Public Option,
    which the majority of us want abd need.

    October 16, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  24. julie in atlanta

    GO, Senator Harkin...Go GO GO!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 16, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  25. Ken

    Watch out for the racist repugs

    October 16, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
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