September 9th, 2009
05:34 PM ET
13 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. jj12345

    Josh in TN September 9th, 2009 5:57 pm ET

    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…
    Then I guess Obama needs to shut up on this...he stated recently that the public option is just a small part of it.

    September 9, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  2. jj12345

    Lilarose September 9th, 2009 5:51 pm ET

    Public takeover? Really?

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

    Theoretically you paid into those programs over your lifetime. They are riddled with problems but if they are so great just loosen the Medicaid rules to cover the uninsured and go from there.

    September 9, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  3. T-MAN

    Olymipa and the rest of the family value party seems to only care about the money from the Insurance lobby. United States ranks 37th in the world for health care. 74% of American's want the same health care plan that we the tax payers provide you. What's good for you is also good for America. Stop being greedy.

    September 9, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  4. m jeff

    No public option = no options, Insurance companies will never do what is right. Stop the greed !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 9, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  5. I Am The Great And Powerful Wizard of Rush; Who Are You?

    No public option means no health insurance reform.
    We do not need a weak bill that amounts to no more than a "snowe-job"

    September 9, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  6. B

    The American people Want the Public Option, that is the biggest part of this, CHOICE !

    Without it, the Insurance companies win.

    September 9, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  7. Steve (the real one)

    1. Why is Social Security and medicare/medicaid going broke? Answer government hands in the pot to use those funds elsewhere! People are sick of government misuse of pubic funds. Now we are asked by the government to just "Trust me". Both the right and the left are guilty. Yet some still don't understand the mistrust.
    2. Sens Snowe and Collins were GOP votes the dems were counting on! You lefties still don't understand! I don't need a nanny! if I mess up, I'll take the responsibility! That is what the mature do!
    3. The government has no business selling insurance of any kind! You want to reform? Fine, just keep the government out of it! With all the attached strings, you'll end up no more than a puppet!

    September 9, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  8. JonDie

    " '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."

    While I agreed with Sen. Snowe, nonetheless, if private industry refuses to insure the uninsured within a certain period of time, there must be a "trigger" that allows for a public option.

    September 9, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  9. Bill Sampson

    Ms. Snow and every other member of Congress has a "public option". When will they all give up their public plans and stop requiring the taxpayers to underwrite their gold plated health care policies? I assume never.

    Health Insurance Company Denials = "Death Panels"

    September 9, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  10. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    And we should stop funding this old fossil's health coverage with our tax dollars!!!!!

    September 9, 2009 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  11. AJ

    Olympia Snowe is a disgusting human being.

    September 9, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  12. ron

    Sorry, I don't have that big ivy league education that these lawmakers and politicians have but if there is no public option, which I thought was the competition that was needed to keep the big insurance companies from ripping off the American public again, what exactly would we have accomplished?

    September 9, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  13. Frank, Las Vegas

    Let me get this straight. A public option must not pass because it's evil, it will put the insurance companies out of business.

    So what the republicans are really saying is that this evil public option will be so popular with the American people that they will all change to the public option. So which is it, evil or fantastic? They can't have it both ways, although they'll try.

    September 9, 2009 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  14. Casey | Ruth, CA

    100% behind a public option! We already have managed and rationed healthcare - it's called Blue Cross or Kaiser Permanente or any other health insurance anyone has, except maybe for Congress and Federal employees.

    Let's take away all health care insurance for Federal and State employees and let them fend for themselves, huh? How fast do you think they'd line up to support decent, universal coverage with a public option?

    Single Payer System is the answer.

    September 9, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  15. Neville McMillan

    This whole Health insurance issue has just become another political fiasco. The politicians in this country are to scared to make any real changes to the health system for fear of losing their campaign funds. The big money is still running the show. They are the insurance companies,pharmacautical companies, lawyers and the doctors. They are not going to give away the huge money they are making at the little guys ( the battlers)expense. When are the politicians going to realize the don't need the big hand outs they get from these companies. If they do some how come up with an affordable health insurance the people will vote for the politicians that backed it. Why don't they start with a range of prices these doctors etc can charge instead of the open slather they have now. It works in other free countries why not here. I think our president is a good smart man that needs some politicians with some ..... behind him.

    September 9, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  16. Mike Jones

    Democrat's are babies. They control the Oval office, Congress and the Senate (Super majority). and still cannot get anything passed. Waaahhhh.. what are they going to do now. Blame it on Bush and Republicans? I don't think so.

    September 9, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  17. vick

    well this ReThug needs to go homecare shes too old

    September 9, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  18. victim of republican greed

    Boehner and Cantor look like lost sheep.

    September 9, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  19. Retired US Army Officer - Kansas

    Well, I say stop propping up the ignorant and brainwashed fools. We have idots clammering that we dont want government involvement in our healthcare, no public option, it might effect my medicare. The private insurance companies can do better, look at the drug program that they wrote for medicare. Private insuarnce companies save money, they just dont insure the old, the sick, and anyone that might get sick, but thats okay, if they get a sick one just raise the rates on them until they can not afford the insurance either.

    September 9, 2009 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  20. Marissa

    Stop supporting the lazy how misinformed and sad you are . The lazy as you call them the people who dont work at all get Medicaid. How dare you speak of people you dont know. My sisters husband works 50-60 hours a week but his nursing home charges $500 a month for health care and he doesnt make enough to afford it. He makes too much for public aid. My sister had a mild heart attack this weekend because she had no MEDS. GET the facts before you speak for the silent majority

    September 9, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  21. Marissa

    I will agree with Snow when SHE gives up the government sponsored health care plan she enjoys. Look at her expensive clothes perhaps if she paid $500 for health care she would have to dress less richly

    September 9, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
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