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

Harkin: Final health care bill will have public option

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/16/art.tomharkin.gi.jpg caption="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. Death Assurance Companies

    It Better.

    October 16, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. T

    I hope Harkin is defeated next go around. Public Option will immediately morph into a Single payer plan as businesses will swap their private for the (at first) cheaper Public option get this Employees will have NO CHOICE.

    October 16, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  3. victim of republican greed

    How can Iowa have an intelligent senator like Harkin and a complete idiot like lying Charles Grassley?

    October 16, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  4. D.

    You push for this nonsense as a diversion from the need to govern, since the president and his secretaries all they know is criticizing the past and do not really know what to do. The debate on public option, the debate on fox news being this or that, and so on, are all diversion tactics by the government when the situation (unemployment mainly) goes bad! In the past, minorities used to be blamed for government not being able to really govern, I am afraid this tactics of blame others and divert to emotional yet relatively side issues CONTINUES!

    October 16, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  5. Brian

    The vast majority of Americans have rejected the insurance-industry paid lies from radio talk-show hosts and know that the public option is the only way to make sure health care is at the very minimum accessible for all Americans.

    Why would we ever trust a for-profit system to provide health care for those of us who get a sickness we can't afford?

    It's true – the Republican solution when you get sick is to either die quickly or get rich quickly because most of us in the middle class who fall severely ill will never recoup the financial burden of insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles...and that's if you're lucky enough to have someone provide health insurance you can actually afford!

    October 16, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  6. An Independent

    It better !!!

    October 16, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  7. Tex

    Please, Tom Harkin, get em all in line. Twist those wrists!

    October 16, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  8. Caesar the Great

    If you want a public option make all Americans pay Federal taxes!!! The 53% of us are tired of paying for the other 47%.

    October 16, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. Barry In Las Vegas

    Forcing this Government takeover of healthcare will be the end of the Democrats running Congress and makes Obama a one term president.

    These guys are tone deaf. They can't dfferentiant the difference between the people wanting reform as opposed to goverment takeover.

    October 16, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. mark

    public option=anti-america...

    October 16, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  11. Right Leaning Independent

    Call me an Obstructionist! No Public Option!! Dems need to stop being enablers! You are making America weak!

    October 16, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  12. Matt, Manchester, CT

    Thanks Tommy, go back to your steak fry now.

    October 16, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. Scott Alexander

    Gotta love those "so-called" public options as the first sentence of the article states – that's really putting those money-loving insurance companies to task!

    I know there's people who don't like the word "public" or who are afraid of the government getting into their health care. I have insurance coverage myself through my job (which I pay about $700 a year for and I hardly ever go to the doctor). I'm not selfish enough to just worry about myself and my single-tier coverage. I worry about others around me when I go to the store who are coughing up a storm because they can't afford to go to the doctor. Maybe they have insurance, but they can't AFFORD to go to the doctor.

    What's wrong with giving them a cheaper option? Or what's wrong with having free health care anyway? Oh, our taxes will sky rocket? Boo hoo...that's what taxes are for – for the government to do it's job to take care of its people. Make the government leave Iraq and Afghanistan (which they should do and which they have no business wasting their time over there anymore) and that'll free up a lot of generated tax revenue there.

    There's no reason the United States should be lagging behind all these other countries in health care coverage. If God blesses so this country as much as all the bumper stickers say, don't you think we should return the favor and take care of ourselves as well?

    And no, I'm not talking about getting help from charities. A lot of charities are out to make a profit themselves and those in charge are making a salary based on those profits – so they're hardly any better than an insurance company. Somebody's getting something great from the charity while someone else is getting hardly anything or nothing at all. Not all charities run this way...just enough not to trust them though.

    October 16, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  14. Pat

    I don't want a public option. The same government that buys $500 hammers and $1200 toilets is not going to manage this very well. Why not do a test case first? The president can write an executive order that says you can buy insurance from other states. Then another order that says that any illegal immigrant that is not legally in the country, if they have a child in the US, the child will not become a US citizen and we deport them all. There are simple things to do first instead of shoving this down our throats.

    October 16, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  15. victim of republican greed

    I am concerned that the weeping willow, Joe Lieberman, will join John McCain and Lindsay Graham, and not support health reform and the majority of Americans.

    October 16, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  16. Kelly

    Its about time that the Dems grow some and do what's right with healthcare. Everyone that has any common sense knows that the big insurance companies and any Republican that has a vested interest in the insurance industry are playing all their cards.
    Its time that someone do something right for the middle class, we deserve affordable healthcare! Millions of people are forced into bankrupcy every year over healthcare, even when its forced on them by a parents health issues. All of the big insurance companies should be ripped apart, and whoever survives and can compete against a government option can stay to play. Otherwise to hell with them!!!

    October 16, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  17. Reformed Republican

    The bill passed by both houses better have reform, a competitive public heath insurance option AND strong anti-trust legislation against big health insurance in it or "We the people" will elect representatives that will put it there.

    That's not a threat senators, congressmen & congresswomen...


    End the death spiral of 122 Americans dying each day for lack of health insurance – YES on the PUBLIC OPTION!

    October 16, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  18. Hugo

    Hey, maybe you can just copy the Taxachussett's health care Bill that Romney left and Federalize that failure....

    Public Option = Taxes and Giveaway!
    Regulate the Insurance Industry and lawyers NOT the American people!

    2010 Change from the Greed within!
    2012 Bring back Government back to the people of the United States!

    October 16, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. katn

    Woohoo! Public Option! Any indvidual mandate to buy health insurance makes no sense without a strong public option to give people a real choice that does not involve the greedy, immoral health insurance companies.

    October 16, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. Sot

    Harkin is all set to carry on teddy's goofy welfare programs. Wonder if he likes gin?

    October 16, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  21. Fools and their freedoms are soon parted

    great another hold over from Ted Kennedy era....

    October 16, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  22. nck

    Getting sick is not a matter of chance but a matter of timing and severity. Everyone will become ill and those without out insurance will be left to die (quickly as the RNC would wish) because greedy self-serving persons cannot put the love of their fellow man before profit and gain. Health care should not be a business but a function of the public commonweal. Those who so loudly decry abortion are the very same who turn a blind eye toward the 40K or so who needlessly die because they do not have health coverage – it does not equate in my mind.

    October 16, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  23. stevegee

    There are already two public options for healthcare - Medicare and Medicaid - and they are both insolvent messes! We also have a public option for retirement - Social Security - and it too is insolvent.

    Three strikes and you're out Washington! We don't want another doomed-to-fail public option.

    Just get out of our lives, and let freedom and liberty reign. Only then, will we be back on the road to a healthy economy.

    October 16, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  24. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I know one thing, if a public option isn't in the bill, there will be some lost democratic seats next year.

    October 16, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. Steve, IA

    Thank you Tom. That will give us enough traction here in Iowa to boot your A$$ out of office. Then you can spend all year at your house in the Bahamas, and not feel obligated to campaign in Iowa.

    October 16, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
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