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. Todd Schmidt

    Just have to have that Government run option in there so that you can push the way for a single payor. I say screw the bill.

    October 16, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. Gee

    I don't know about anyone else, but when the elections come along, I am voting against any democrap I have the opportunity to vote down. These people need to be voted out of office for pushing this terrible healthcare package down the throats of the people.....they are not listening! We don't want it!! AND it is unecessary.....

    October 16, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  3. Karon - Houston

    Horray! Now they need to limit co-pays and yearly deductables. I have Medicare and I have to pay out-of-pocket $1253 per chemo treatment for my cancer! I have to have 6 treatments and that doesn't include all the tests I have to have each time after the 6 treatments so that the doctors can figure out if they got it all! Plus, since I have a spot of colonic cancer, I am only allowed a colonosky once every 2 years although I need one every 6 months to make sure the cancer is
    controlled so I have to pay over $3000 for each follow-up test!

    But it sure beats having to pay for everything with no insurance. Each chemo costs $18,000! The pharmacutical companies are making out like bandits! No wonder no one wants a cure for cancer!

    October 16, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  4. machtim akannah

    First you say you do, and then you don't, and then you say you will, and then you won't......etc.

    We need facts, not speculation, not conjecture, and most of all we need an understandable list of what the bill may or may not include. As a matter of fact, Congress needs the same list. I suspect few if any have read the bill in its entirety since they are working only a 3 day week and plan for their non-congressional activities during that time.

    October 16, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. kaleto

    Well, the part about mandating all Americans purchase some kind of health insurance is clearly unconstitutional. I'm just glad the dems don't have a majority on the Supreme Court!

    October 16, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  6. Liberal in Nebraska

    If there is no public option you can't call it reform. The fact that the insurance/drug companies are so adament against it should make everyone want it.

    October 16, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  7. Voted4HealthCare

    Let's get it passed for ALL Americans.

    The public option is supported by the majority in our country and will help ensure reasonable competition against the status quo of unacceptable greed in the insurance lobby.

    Health Reforms Now with a public option. Yes WE Can!

    October 16, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  8. OldUncleTom

    Simple for me, really. If I am to be ordered to purchase something by the government, they had better offer to sell it to me. I don't care if they are agents or principals, I will not purchase a private-sector product with a government mandate. It is just plain wrong.

    And drop the lame "car insurance" example too, while we are at it. If I don't want car insurance, I can sell my car and give up driving.

    What should I give up if I don't want to be robbed blind by a health insurance pimp? Breathing maybe?

    No Public Option, No Mandate... there is a compromise I can live with.

    October 16, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  9. Wynter

    The ONLY way to assure that the Health Insurance Companies play by the rules and keep prices down is the PUBLIC OPTION.

    Cooperatives, Triggers, etc will NOT help US, it will only give the Insurance Companies another 10-20 years to take us to the cleaners using loopholes, workarounds, and outright illegal activities on the citizens of the United States.

    Only the PUBLIC OPTION forces these companies to have real COMPETITION in the markets. DON'T let them talk your congressmen out of REAL CHANGE!

    October 16, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  10. E

    go for it!

    October 16, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  11. Fair is Fair

    "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."

    Last time I checked, 60 – 5 = 55. Byrd won't be there and Lieberman said no. So that's 53. Not enough, Harkin. Baucus is right.

    October 16, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  12. Jim

    There is no fiscal reason to be againsts a public option. The only reasons to be against it are that you are bought by the insurance companies, or your constituents are against it in contradiction to their own self interests. Insurance companies bring nothing to the table that makes us healthier, they just take a slice of the pie.

    October 16, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  13. LacrosseDad

    waterloo...no free health insurance for unions and welfare lovers.

    October 16, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. Obama worst president EVER

    How about Harkin loses his public option and has to get a real job? Shove your government health care.

    October 16, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  15. A.B.

    I sincerely hope Senator Harkin is right. The public option is integral to the effectiveness and credibility of H.R. 3200. In fact, I think the public option is the essence of true health insurance reform.

    October 16, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  16. ib

    The so called public option will kill our health care. $400 billion cut on medicare will kill health care for seniors and the demo's and far left talk about how this help.Someone please help us since the demos care nothing about the seniors in this country.

    October 16, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. howie

    The democrats simply do not get it, in spite of what America says. They DO NOT WANT A PUBLIC OPTION. Get the democrat congress hearing aids.

    October 16, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  18. Bedtime for Obonzo

    This just in from CNN-Breaking News....

    Obama administration says U.S. ran a $1.42 trillion deficit in fiscal year 2009 - the largest since 1945.

    October 16, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  19. seebofubar

    Hey Harkin...move to Russia or Cuba or someplace where you can destroy freedom and free enterprise. You'll probably like it there, they've already done some of the stupid things Democrats want to do here. It's hard to believe that anyone with more than a third grade education would support the public option, but then again you are a democrat and probably got through third grade with the help of affirmative action.

    October 16, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  20. Minnesotan

    Most Americans want a Public Option. Most Republicans don't. You tell me who has the greater numbers.

    October 16, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. Chloe in Chatsworth, CA

    Any bill without a public option will be welfare for the big insurance monopolies. One out of every three dollars spent on health care goes to the insurance companies' profit and overhead, including millions "earned" by over-paid executives. Requiring that every citizen carry insurance and providing subsidies to those who can't afford it will provide the biggest windfall for for-profit insurance companies in corporate history.

    October 16, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  22. New Age Independent

    Why does health-care reform need to have a public option? It tells me that Democrats have no clue what the real problems of today's health-care on normal citizens. Their response is to create a completely new government run option? They arrive at this based on what? The success at running other government run endeavors? The government has had little success running any business, and there's no reason to believe that this "public option" wont be another worthless plan. The only realistic result will be more taxes, with little improvement at all, oh, and of course more corruption.

    October 16, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. Ex-Repug

    I hope Harkin and the Dems are finally going to get aggressive. It should be Public Option or bust. Hopefully they already decided that they will be using reconciliation to get this through. We tried bipartisan – it didn't work. The Repugs would used reconciliation already like they have done in the past.

    October 16, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  24. Hammerer

    Dems want to talk about and what a great thing they are doing, but where are the jobs for the American worker? Unemployment stands at 17%( not the 9.9% that the regimen is trying to sell) and no relief in sight( some must suffer for the good of the underprivileged). If no one works who will pay the taxes necessary for free healthcare. Oh they don't want to hear that.

    October 16, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  25. Ain't life strange?

    @ Joe and all of the other misinformed posters who think health care reform with a public option will bankrupt America... how about the needless 'war' in Iraq that makes 90 billion a year for 10 years look like a bargain? And, guess what Joe... Americans will be the recipients of the tax dollars. People who have no insurance won't have to face a 'death panel' when they become seariously sick. Or, are you opposed to that?

    October 16, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
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