June 14th, 2009
12:53 PM ET
11 years ago

Senators sound off on health care reform

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Comments by a bipartisan trio of moderate senators Sunday suggest that the Obama administration and more liberal Senate Democrats could be in for a fight if plans to overhaul the nation’s health care delivery system focus primarily on a public health insurance option.

Moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Sunday that she found an approach involving private health insurance co-operatives “far preferable to the government-run plan that has been discussed by the administration.”

Sen. Ben Nelson of Omaha, a moderate Democrat, struck a similar note, suggesting that his party should look first at trying to make current private health insurance options operate more effectively and for more people.

“I think the government role can be a back-up,” Nelson said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

“What we want to do is we want to make sure that we preserve what’s there,” Nelson added, “and be able to have competition but to do it in a way that you don’t destabilize the insurance for 200 million Americans [while] trying to provide for 42 to 46 million Americans to have health insurance as well.”

Democrat Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, was blunt about the upcoming consideration of health care reform in the Senate.

“The problem is votes,” Conrad told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. “I think you are in a 60-vote environment,” said Conrad, rejecting the possibility of using special Senate rules that would require just 51 votes to pass health care reform. “And that means you’ve got to attract some Republicans as well as holding virtually all of the Democrats together. And that I don’t believe is possible with the pure public option. I don’t think the votes are there.”

The senators also signaled Sunday that major battles are ahead over how to pay for health care reform.

Asked whether the country could afford health care reform right now, Sen. Collins responded that “the president’s budget projects deficits that simply are not sustainable in the long run.”

While not disagreeing with Collins about the long-term financial implications of the president’s plans, Sen. Conrad said health care reform should be carried out now even with its potentially high price tag.

“We can’t afford not to,” he said. “This is something that we simply must do for our families, for our businesses, for the country itself.”

Filed under: Health care • State of the Union
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Christian Verstraete

    I am a european visiting the US and keep hearing about the health reform. Many of the debates you are having are quite interesting for a european. Unfortunately, I believe you are missing the fundamental question. This one is whether americans are open for solidarity or not. Whether the European health systems are better or worse than the US, frankly I don't know, but there is one fundamental difference, and this is that they are based on solidarity. And frankly I believe that is the right thing to do.

    June 14, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. robert verdi

    the president has been disingenuous in regards to the cost savings predicted from preventive care and electronic records. There may be strong arguments for these ideas, but saving hundreds of billions is not one of them.

    June 14, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  3. yuri

    We only hope that the healthcare debates will not lead to unhealthy attitudes and ego clashes, comin' in the way of achievin' a few bold and bipartisan bargains for the American people, who are hurtin' with excruciatin' pain.

    June 14, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  4. bk

    Obama is talking about only taxing people that are not in the union for their benefits, because the union complained and I guess Obama thinks the union is better than the rest of us. They did give him 30 million and now he wants to pay them back. The bail out wasn't enough for them.

    June 14, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  5. Rebecca

    Yes the American people need to stick together on this issue and see that everyone has the same healthcare, NO EXCEPTIONS. The doctors, Insurance Companies and Pharmaceutical Companies all need a good lesson in how to cut back and help all the people not just themselves which is what is wrong now. If it isn't me who cares?? That's the new mantra we have lived with in this country too long.

    June 14, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Thin is in?

    The latest in a long line of lies by the fraud in chief.

    This never worked a day in his life fraud LIED to get elected and is changing his tune on what he said to get ELECTED and some smart Democrats are starting to call him in on it.

    The rest of the Dimocrats are sheep and will always be stupid, moronic, Keith Olbermann watching sheep.

    Maybe you nitwits will start taking notice when your money starts missing from your checks, the Obama sheep that work of course, which are not many.

    Obama says "we live in the greatest Country in the world, help me fix it"???????????????????

    June 14, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. Tubby The Tuba Texas

    All of those health care lobbyist are swinging into action. Look at the Senators and Reps. who will fight tooth and nail to stop Obama's action on Health Care. Think how many millions of dollars these Senators and Reps. stand to lose. Think too, the money that can be saved by such a Health care plan. Those who carry no insurance will have health insurance, which can lower the health care plans that many professionals are on. One of the primary reasons for high premiums is to pay for those who do not, and can not afford it.

    June 14, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  8. C.Thompson

    Let's just give all the U.S. citizens the same health care coverage that the Congress and Senate get, if it is good enough for them then it should be good enough for the rest of the country as well. I don't think they do anything of special interest to enable them to have more than anyone else in this country. It has been shown that this country can't get along without the "little" guy, we are the cog that keeps this country running. Make the insurance companies, and drug companies stop all this nonsense with their huge profits. Give this country what the so called "elite" have, choices!

    June 14, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  9. luan isuffi

    There is nothing to overhaul in US health care system. Even naming it a system is a joke-this is open invitation for health insurerers doctors and hospital to steal.No industialized country has such a backward system-we are behid third word countries.This BS of the system is putting companies like GM,Chrysler ,GE out of bussiness.

    June 14, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  10. Joe the Troll

    Remember, it's what's good for insurance and pharmaceutical companies that matters. The taxpayers are replaceable.

    June 14, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  11. Moe NY

    Health insurance for ALL AMERICANS....it is the right thing to do!

    June 14, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  12. Russell NH

    Health care in the US will never change.

    So long as employers are held financially responsible for the health care of their employees and not the individual or government, we will lose the battle of outsourcing jobs to foreigners, period.

    June 14, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  13. Leah

    When is a real journalist going to call out Mitch OConnell on his false claim that America has the best health care system in the world? It ranks 34th!!!

    Journalism in this country involves repeating party talking points and claims on partisan and corporate ads. What happened to real investigative journalism. Like runaway fraud in the health care system, or actually looking into the health care systems in other countries.

    June 14, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  14. IM

    Make healthcare into a not-for-profit industry: it could be private, but NOT FOR PROFIT and TAX EXAMPTED. Would Christ make profit of people’s suffering? Why should corporation and goverment do?

    June 14, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  15. lee simmons

    Health care; as well as, many other services in the U.S. has been taken over by private industry. The system is too pricy and selective to those, who are capable of accessing or affording it's benefits. Where is the voice for the unheard, those out of the loop. It is the american people. Let us not argue under pretense of political factions, but regain our country from private industry fianancial terroism. "Yes, we can."

    June 14, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  16. gypsyalso

    everyone is entitled to good health care – not just those who can afford it.

    stop discrimination in health care – single payer not for profit NOW.

    June 14, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  17. Vancouver, bc

    As a Canadian, I totally agree with the assessment of Christian Verstraete.

    June 14, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  18. Dawn in Pa

    @Thin is in.

    Are you speaking about Bush right? You may not like the Sitting President, but calling him a fraud and he lied to us, let me remind you that he passed many bills that he had promised. Health care is going to be the hardest, because of all the lobbiest trying to keep millions of dollars in their pockets. Another thing, when you do not have health care and you need major surgery and you are stuck paying 150,000 dollars you have to pay the hospital, doctors, and you have to pay for every pill you are taking, you are charged for the I.V. and when they give you five Prescriptions to fill and you have No perscription plan and you are paying about 50.00 to 300 dollars for your meds. I betcha you would change your mind, when you seek an Attorney to file for bankruptcy.

    Bush could careless about fixing something that has been broke for several decades.

    June 14, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. LCK

    The problem with wanting competition and the free market to work, is that in health care, there is no competition or free market. The market is controlled by the insurance companies and big Pharma. They make the decisions on who gets insurance therefore who gets care. They define what is the appropriate level of care, they are the ones that currently ration care. Something must be done to make the large corporations more accountable to their customers (patients).

    June 14, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  20. Joe

    The system we have is imperfect no one will disagree, to dismantle it brick by brick and replace it with a system that is worse and costs more (especially in a recession) is very unwise and is a dangerous proposal, why rush this, let’s take care and study the alternatives, let’s fix it.
    We know how inefficient the government is, mandating coverage to help private industry be more competitive makes no sense, the government is not about competition and has never run a profitable enterprise, to even consider it ignores reality.

    June 14, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  21. Jenn, Philadelphia

    The President has been disingenuous about more than just the cost-saving benefits of his health plan. He even floated out the idea of taxing work-sponsored benefits, something he attacked John McCain about during the election. He only backed away from the idea when his own party raised objections. Is any one keeping count on the broken promises and out-right lies?

    June 14, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. Marty, Grand Rapids

    Anything that doesn't cover every man, woman and child in the United States will be a waste of time. If getting there requires us to raise taxes, then raise taxes. You can't get something for nothing. I also believe in a single payer system as our private insurance experiment has failed and they just appear to be middle men. To say we have compitition right now is just like saying cingular is compitition for verizon. They are two sides of the same coin. If the big beef with a government run program is it will be too cheap and run the private insurrance companies out of business .... wouldn't that be the point (saving money and covering everyone)?

    June 14, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  23. Meidy

    It seems some tend to forget that health insurance comes at a cost. It's a pool of money – just like home insurance, car insurance or any other kind of insurance. In the vast majority of years, you pay more in premiums than you'll receive in benefits to protect against a catestrophic loss in any particular year. If you can't pay for health care today, how do you pay for the premiums under Obama's (or any other) plan? Oh yea, that's where the rest of us come in.....we'll pay the difference. The real problem is that, for many of the uninsured, health care is viewed as a want and not a need. Paying for premiums comes after the nicer house than is needed, the brand new car, a new tattoo and all other wants. If it was viewed as a need, people would make the sacrifices to pay for it just like they do for other needs.

    June 14, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  24. David

    A public health plan option is the only way to maintain control over healthcare costs and ensure all americans are able to obtain healthcare coverage. Insurance companies, doctors, manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies are in this business to make money. If there is no strong public option to compete with the marketplace, the free market will gang together and continue to raise rates as they have already done.

    The strongest opposition from the politicians and industry is the fear of actual price/service/quality competition. But it must be done as a national security issue as it relates to the financial security of our country. I say use the 51 vote system and move along. We are at a breaking point now. The American people have already voted overwhelmingly for the public option through several polls. Now it's time for the senate and congress to do their part.

    June 14, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  25. JC Austin TX

    The problem with keeping what we have is that it has resulted in the high costs we have now. Just adding a program to pay for the uninsured means we pay everything we do now, PLUS their costs. We need to find a cheaper way to deliver health care. Of course those who are making lots of money off the current situation will fight tooth and nail but, frankly, I don't have a lot of sympathy for big insurance right now.

    June 14, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
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