July 12th, 2009
12:49 PM ET
13 years ago

Senators disagree on key details of health care reform

WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama’s ambitious goal of having health care reform legislation on his desk by August is facing some serious obstacles - if Sunday’s discussion by a bipartisan group of senators is any indication of what the wider debate in the Senate will be like.

Just minutes after Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary said the administration was open to a recent proposal from Rep. Charles Rangel to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans in order to fund part of the costs of health care reform, fellow Democrat Sen. Kent Conrad said the proposal was basically a non-starter.

“Everything does have to be on the table,” Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, “you can’t negotiate properly without that rule in place. But, I don’t think the House proposal as I’ve heard it will be what’s part of the final package.”

That said, Conrad added that the final bill may include some request for wealthier Americans “to pay a bit more.”

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander called Rangel’s proposal “a bad idea.”

Instead, Alexander said health care reform proposals should focus on not adding to the national debt while making it possible for every American to purchase their own health care insurance. Alexander suggested that one way to accomplish these twin goals is to consider eliminating tax deductions granted on so-called “Cadillac” employer-provider health insurance plans.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan disagreed with Lamar Alexander’s approach. “Realistically, the one thing that is off the table is taxing employee benefits,” the Democrat told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire suggested that the current terms of the entire health care reform debate might be wrong-headed.

“Why don’t we approach this horse from the other end?,” Gregg said, “I think we’re approaching it from the wrong end when you start increasing spending like that and increasing the debt of this country - which is already excessive.”

Instead, Gregg suggested that a better approach would focus on controlling the rate of spending through delivery of better quality health care at lower costs.

The senators also disagreed on whether a public insurance option ought to be a part of health care reform.

“A public option is a slippery slope to a single-payer system like in Canada or England,” Gregg said.

Sen. Conrad continues to back his proposal for health insurance co-ops while Alexander said that he does not support a public option but might support co-ops.

Stabenow called the public option her “first choice and very strong choice” for health care reform. The Michigan Democrat said that Sens. Gregg and Alexander’s comments reflected “scare tactics put forward by folks that don’t really want to change the system.”

Last week, President Obama said he would like to have health care reform legislation on his desk, ready for his signature by the time Congress takes its annual August recess.

Filed under: Health care • State of the Union
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. katiec

    Health Care Reform is crucial for us and our country. But, to eliminate public option will ruin the reform, once again raping the American people.
    It would let the insurance companies remain in control and we all know what a diaster that has been.
    Our health care is the costliest in the world, yet ranks 30th in care and performance. Thousands upon thousands have to file for bankruptcy due to medical costs. We don't even want to know how many people die because they cannot afford medical attention.
    Americans, we can no longer tolerate or allow big business, lobbyists, special interests run our country and make crucial decisions for us.
    We must demand a true health care reform, that we take priority in making decisions and do not allow our politicians give priority to campaign contributions and big business.

    July 12, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  2. Fla.

    Let the irresponsible Republican tax cuts for the wealthy (in the middle of a war nonetheless) expire as scheduled next year and use the funds towards the public option supported by the majority of Americans.

    The Republican status quo is simply unacceptable, while too many Americans are struggling and need affordable coverage provided by the public option.

    July 12, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  3. GI Joe

    Solution? Don't let them go on vacation (any of them) until they reach a majority with a viable solution.


    July 12, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  4. gl, Pittsburgh

    “A public option is a slippery slope to a single-payer system like in Canada or England,” Gregg said.

    Why don't you Repubicans what us to have a Pubic Opition when you all in Congress have one that is very good one be cause I am one of those employees with one of the best Health Plan becasue I have a govenment job. They to their and they don't want the American people to have what they have becasue most old white man our to damm selfish. GOP IS A RICH PARTY AND COULD CARE LESS ABOUT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVING HEALTH CARE FOR EVERYONE.


    July 12, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  5. kgeukes

    If the senators of this country can't get together and agree on health care for the people who pay their salary then I suggest we vote them out. Term limits for senators...just like prez...two terms and your done!!!! Get it done!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 12, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  6. ib

    We need some kind of health care reform but not gov. controlled. When will people wake up and realize this country is broke and broke now not later. We can't afford anything that costs more gov or should I say tax payer money right now. The money is not there people and with the dollar already loosing it's value to all this spending we are on a freight train headed for runaway inflation; sooner not later.

    July 12, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. No Hillary = No Obama

    While congress debates health care, I'm getting IOU's from the State of California. I think Congress should get IOU's and so should the Terminator and all those other jerks in Sacramento. Then you would see how fast these issues would be resolved. Take away health care from Congress and see how quickly they figure out a plan of action. This country is top heavy with narcissistic politicians, not leaders.

    July 12, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  8. Mike Dallas

    I am willing to pay more taxes for health care insurance for everyone. I make 60K I would be willing to pay 1 or 2% more in taxes so everyone, including myself should I become unemployed and lose my employer insurance, would have health insurance coverage. Everyone should have access to health insurance, with a no pre-existing clause and if the poor cannot afford to pay the premiums then use the taxes to subsidize them to pay for a public insurance plan. The cost of which could be kept down by clinics that are staffed by nurses and a physician's assistant or doctor that comes in a couple of days a week. The payment amount should be added to the welfare assistance amount but go directly to the insurer, NOT the individual(s) via the welfare payment system.

    Also, the House plan does not include illegal aliens, but they will still go to the emergency room for health care and we will still pay for it in higher rates for all us, although the cost for 12 million would be less than 47 million.

    July 12, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  9. Greg

    I have a great health policy, paid for by me and my company. I would gladly give it up mfor a single payer system. Doesn't matter if taxes go up to pay for it. Between me and my company, we are paying 11-12k per year any way. As lonk as everybody pays, then everybody gets covered.

    July 12, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  10. T Mckinley

    GOP-Please do what is best for the American people and stop trying to protect the "rights" of health care insurance executives to exploit our need for health care insurance to make themselves filthy rich.

    The public option is the only thing that is going to motivate private insurance companies to lower their costs. Yes, your filthy rich financial contributors are going to have to take cuts in their executive compensation packages, but you will be doing what is best for the American people by supporting the public option.

    July 12, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |