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. Questions, questions, questions

    [Start sarcasm here]
    So, I just looked at my new private insurance plan provided through my private employer.

    Boy am I excited. I remain in control of my medical care...
    as long as I use the generic drugs they tell me I can use ...
    as long as I go to the doctor they tell me I can go to...
    as long as I obtain the treatmnet they tell me is within the scope of my plan...
    as long as I allow them to deny any claim by telling me it was a "pre-existing condition".

    While I exercise this great self-control over my medical care, they are going to triple my deductible, increase my co-pay by 200%, and all this only comes with a 7.5% increase on my premium every single year to make up for the 5% increase in salary I received.
    [End sarcasm here.]

    October 16, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  2. Questions, questions, questions

    Strange that the very Republican George W. Bush administration drafted the Iraqi constitution to provide public funded universal health care AS A RIGHT to all Iraqis, yet now the Republicans are opposed to that very same concept IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY!

    Health care is a right that has been acknowledged and adopted by the United States in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in the year 1949 with the urging and support of the United States. The Declaration proclaimed that, "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one's family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care."

    October 16, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. Questions, questions, questions

    Being healthy is a necessity for all that wish to live and be productive. No congressional leader will step forward and say the words 'I don't want my constituents to be healthy', but that is exactly what they are saying when they oppose the public option.

    October 16, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. Lydia

    With all the millions the health care industry is throwing to lobbyists (another word for pimp), they'd have more credibility if they worked with congress now to come up with a good health care bill.

    Unfortunately, the majority of health care providers are for-profit and I don't see many for-profit ventures insuring persons with chronic ailments or accepting persons with pre-existing conditions.

    This is one reason we must have a public option. It's an option folks, nothing else. You will not be forced into it unless, of course, the for-profit providers throw you out and mind you they will.

    Unless all Americans have access to health insurance and are obligated to carry it, we won't have enough money to "spread the risk".

    While I don't agree with the practice of the "healthy" shouldering the cost of the "unhealthy", something, I'm sure, can be worked out.

    Because as of now, all Americans are paying for those that use the emergency room as their primary care provider because either they can't afford the office visits, prescriptions or health insurance.

    Incidentally, I'm 60, currently have health insurance but I'm dismayed that so many Americans don't feel the need to help others or support the new health care initiative.

    Whatever happened to our humanity and love for one another?

    October 16, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  5. Melissa

    Good. Very very good. We need a public option, especially with the recent behavior by the insurance companies who only managed to be convincing that we need one to stop their greedy behavior.

    October 16, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. southerncousin

    Harkin and all the other libitards can keep crammin' their crap down the throats of tax paying Americans. That is why we have TEA parties which of course the libs believe (thanks to their brilliant leadership) are composed of racists and unpatriotic americans. Keep dreaming until the wake up call in 2010.

    October 16, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  7. proudmemberofpartyofdumbasrocks

    Right on! Go get 'em Tom.

    The stupidity and willful ignorance displayed by the birth-bagging [R]s is just stunning.

    October 16, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  8. NYCitizen

    Is that public option for those of us who are overweight, smoke, have high blood pressure and diabetes and whose employers might not insure us becase we have those conditions? Wellness incentives were passed into the bill which essentially say that If someone has those conditions, and can't get it under control, they will have to pay higher health insurance premiums. What if my high blood pressure is genetic rather than life style? What if my high cholesterol is high for no apparent reason (some people have high cholesterol even though they lead healthy active lives)? What if I exercise, lose weight, watch what I eat and my diabetes is still wack? Will I have to pay higher premiums for things that may not be in my control? Isn't this a loophole provision for pre-existing conditions/injuries? What if I prefer a quality health insurance but can't get it because of the above, and then I am forced to get the public option, which may be a less than desirable quality compared to the one my employer may offer but I can't get????

    October 16, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  9. Tom in Delaware

    Then it will be defeated in 2009 or defunded in 2010...take your choice.

    October 16, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  10. Four and The Door

    If this is how the Senate feels about a Public Option, then this is how they should vote. Of course, it will not pass unless they pull a fast one and abuse the sysem for how it was intended to be used. That would be unfortunate for all of us.

    The voters will have their say in 2010 and 2013. We have already made very clear that Americans do not want a Public Option, but it's up to the Senate whether they listen to the population or follow the party line.

    Hopefully what we are seeing here is an indication that they will never get anything passed.

    October 16, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. Bugl3t

    A public option is barely a start. It is time for health insurance to be a NOT FOR PROFIT concern, especially if pushing to require that all Americans buy it.

    If health care is the major source of economic troubles for our businesses and corporations, then surely eliminating the overhead of "a middle man" such as the insurance industry and their fat cat CEOs, is the bare minimum.

    After all, didn't we just BAIL them out? We barely supported a source for actual manufacturing jobs in this country - Detroit and the auto industry - and only reluctantly and partially... BUT we give billions to AIG and other non-productive bloodsucking leeches?

    Pathetic. And SO telling of how corporate libertarians continue to privatize wealth and socialize risk in the biggest acts of class warfare ever seen in this country.

    October 16, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  12. 60's survivor

    *SMILE*. the dark cloud of mordor is lifting

    October 16, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    If American wants to succeed and the Democrats want to win in 2010 and 2012, they better deliver on a robust public option.

    It is the right thing to do – everyone knows that. It all comes down to what your values are: People vs. Money.

    Democrats = People
    Republicans = Money

    October 16, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  14. big deal

    is it not nice how these guys decide how they will go against the will of the american people. hmmmm. the times they are a'changin. it is not just the american private sector that is going to have high unemployment. the next sector will be the clowns in washinton dc.

    October 16, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  15. Mark

    Great since the federal gov't is so good at managing tax payer money

    October 16, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. Marco

    The health care bill will be another gift to the Insurance industry without the public option. 12 billion and getting more profitable and we keep paying more for less. These people don't care at all for us. Once a viable alternative is available, we'll see how their outrageous profits will be.

    October 16, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  17. normajean

    Hang in there , Senator, we won.t forget you and your fellow workers when it comes time to vote again.We know whom we can believe
    in and whom we can trust.

    October 16, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  18. Tom St. Paul

    Thank you, Mr. Harkin. This is just what the doctor ordered!

    October 16, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  19. Tony

    Rut Rho George, another Marxist discovered in the White House, and its Anita Dunn the "watchdog" of FoxNews' lies. She just can't name any of them. CNN, you did the WH vs FNC story, like it was a big story, you may want to follow up on the BIGGER story.

    October 16, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |

    t is obvious that the overwhelming majority of the country is against the "public option". But the will of the people does not matter to libs. After the riots in those town hall meetings we saw everyday and now listenig to the dems still talk like they will go ahead with this, shows the similarities to the communist dictatorships democrats admire.

    October 16, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  21. vijay

    It is going to be good for democrats and very good for America.

    October 16, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  22. Wavey

    Translation: Screw you, America. You're gonna get government health care whether you want it or not.

    We're losing freedom – and the Democrats are all to happy to take it away.

    October 16, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  23. Craig of LA

    The public option must pass as 77% of Americans support it and its competition will bring down costs!. We must also end the Healthcare industry's anti-trust status and require that a minimum of 90% of their income go to patients! The fact that they pay their executives obscene salaries and lobby congress with millions means one thing folks – they are screwing us with high premiums.

    For the record, a public plan will not put private health care insurers out of business. Let me refute this bogus republican argument – a theoretical arguement that is patently false;

    Fact 1: Germany and other European countries have a public plan and numerous private health insurance companies that are doing fine. These private companies did not go out of business! Refutation #1.

    Fact 2: FedEx and UPS (private companies) are doing quite well. Our Government run Post Office has not put them out of business! Refutation #2.

    Fact 3: Government/state run colleges have not put private colleges out of business. They are thriving! Refutation #3.

    There will always be private companies for those that chose to pay for them. This is simple economic fact.

    Thank you Senator Harkin for standing firm for Americans against the lies of republicans and health Insurance companies that have been screwing us for years.

    October 16, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  24. Rose

    Our elected leaders just don't listen. They think they know what is good for the people. Most people don't want the public option but that doesn't seem to matter. I understand those who want the public option are upset that the Senate bill does not include the public option. They keep blaming those of us who do not want it but I wish that they would understand that we will be forced into it even though we don't want it. Remember when Obama said repeatidly, If you like what you have now, you can keep it. That is not what any of the bills say. He also said, illegals will not be covered, that is also false. I do not trust the government to get anything right.

    October 16, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  25. David

    I hope the Senator is correct. Without the option very few things will change and what DOES change will be cosmetic with little effect.

    October 16, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
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