October 25th, 2009
12:20 PM ET
13 years ago

Dem senators diverge on public option

WASHINGTON (CNN) – As Democratic leaders in Congress appear to be converging on proposals for a public health insurance option that might win passage in each chamber, the comments of two Democratic senators Sunday suggested that a long fight is likely ahead in the Senate.

Conservative Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska told CNN's John King that he has not committed to lend his vote to aid Democrats in avoiding a filibuster of health care reform legislation.

"I've made no promise," Nelson said Sunday, adding that he can't decide whether he should help stop a filibuster until he sees the substance of the Senate bill being crafted by Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid.

Nelson also said that he does not support the latest proposal that Reid is considering - a national public health insurance option that would allow states to opt out. But Nelson said he might be able to support a public option where states are allowed, instead, to opt in.

"Look, I'm a Jeffersonian Democrat," Nelson told King, "I think states can make decisions on their own about their own citizens and so I certainly would look at that."

Nelson added that he didn't think he "could make any decision about anything until [he'd] seen everything."

Liberal Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio disagreed with Nelson and said a public health insurance option was necessary in order to help deal with the power insurance companies currently wield.

Brown rejected the idea of placing a trigger on the public health insurance option which would only kick in and provide the public alternative under certain market conditions.

"The trigger says let's give the health insurance companies another two years after they've had five decades since World War II to do things right," Brown said Sunday.

"We need the public option now," Brown added, "We need it in large part because it will inject competition into places where they don't have it."

Brown said he could support a version of the public option that includes a state opt-out.

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch came out against any form of a public health insurance option.

"You're going to have a fiasco on your hands," the Utah Republican warned referring to the prospect of a public health insurance option which could place additional financial burdens on states.

Late last week, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid began to lean toward including a version of the public option in the Senate bill that allows states to opt-out.

On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leading House Democrats are considering a public health insurance option that would contain costs and extend coverage because it would reimburse at the same rates as Medicare. House Democratic leaders have also expressed some openness to a version of the public option that uses negotiated reimbursement rates much like private insurance.

Filed under: Democrats • Health care • Senate
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Death Panel Sarah

    I will really cry for the insurance industry when they go broke.....BOO HOO!!!

    October 25, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  2. Fred

    Put the Public Option on the ballots. Let let the people decide not the paid for senators of both corrupt parties. Any issue that is this important should be put on the ballots. As long as the Senate makes all our decision the people will never have what they need. The system we have now is designed to oppress the people and keep them under control. The current health care system is designed to keep the people sick, to allow as many as possible to die by denying services and collect lots of money while doing it. Health Insurance Companies have been committing murder for years and years. Yes denying people life saving services is murder. They need to be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    October 25, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  3. MatthewDetroit

    The bill simply Cost too much. ...
    It is a bad bill.
    We do not want or need a public option.

    Allow insurance companies to compete across state lines.
    THere must be tort reform. Stop all the law suits....
    Change to the system to a dental type system...
    Except for catastrophic illness... we should not be spending and testing for every little thing...
    Monitor insurance company spending....
    But kill the health care bill. It is a joke.
    No insurance should cover the illegal aliens.

    October 25, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  4. aliou

    Any dem who doesn't commit publicly for a strong public option would bring the dems down. Republicans are playing games on dems. They know the only way they can come back to power is if the dems do not deliver the reforms for which they were elected (public option healthcare is just one of the reforms) .

    Republicans have also succeeded in turning the whole Obama reforms agenda into healthcare reform agenda. All the other pletoria of items on the agenda have all been skillfully pushed asside.

    Republicans are waiting for election time to bring it up as the laundry list of things Obama and dems failed to do.

    Dems need to wake up and stop following republicans. A proverb says the man who runs naked after a mad man who stole his cloth while he was taking his bath is crazier than the mad man.

    Republicans have nothing to lose in the diversionary tactics. They gain by preventing dems from delivering and performing better than they did in the last 8 years.

    Yet it is up to dems to see through their games and focus on delivery rather than the rethoric.

    Dems will gain in ignoring the repuks.

    October 25, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  5. ib

    Where do you libs come up with the 65% figure on public option?? I sure haven't seen it in all the polls I've looked at. The so called public option is just another way for the gov. to take total controll of the health care. OOPEN YOUR EYES AND LOOK PEOPLE. This will doomed the senior citizens in this country.

    October 25, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  6. Dawn Ada, Ohio

    Are you listening America!!! Vote out these people who are in the pockets of Big Insurance. Let them know that is your intention. Write, call, e mail, hell stand outside their offices and yell it if you have to. A Public Option is not just wanted, it is necessary!!!

    October 25, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Mike1952

    Funny thing. I attended a workshop on healthcare just last Friday. Historically you will never guess what the root cause of the out of control costs are. MEDICARE. The rising costs of health care have their roots in medicare. Of course technology has had its influence in recent years. But with medicare came reimbursement without control for several years. So now we are debating government control as a way to hold down costs. Good luck with that!

    October 25, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  8. Mike McDermott

    I don't know why I can't get anyone to investigate an operation that happened to me in Nelson's Nebraska and Mayo Clinic in 2001/2002. My situation would show health insurance idustry supported Nelson's direct involvement in Nebraska's healthcare, and also the state of Nebraska's involvement in healhcare outcomes. Mayo Clinic just recently announced that it would no longer accept Medicaid patients from the state of Nebraska. Is it because of the political interference in Nebraska?

    October 25, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  9. Edwin

    I think 80% or more of the people up in arms don't actually know what the term "public option" even means. They are upset because someone powerful told them it was evil (or vital - it works both ways).

    The people who are really against the public option are the big insurance companies. They don't actually care much about it, but they see this as the way to bring the whole of health care reform down.

    October 25, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  10. susan

    Public Option will soon be a joke and machine of destruction on our health care.

    I was from a country where govenment controlled our health care. It was so terrible. Under the Govenment controlled HC, you will soon find yourself like walking in a dead end road. It made me scared to death.

    October 25, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  11. Boo

    Nelson lost my vote with his continued hogwash about needing over 60 votes or he won't support it. Yes, I'm from Nebraska. I've been watching what he's been saying very closely lately. He needs to understnad that over 65% of the nation supports a public option. Maybe he should get on board with that. My respect for Webb (which you have not mentined here) went up when he said something to the effect that the real answer is a system like other countries have. Cover more of Webb. I'm tired of Nelson getting all the press when he is really a DINO.

    October 25, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  12. RTB

    It is infuriating that any elected official would not want the public option. It is precisely for the good of the public that the bill is being put forward.
    These Republicans and republicans in democrat name are in the pockets of the insurance companies. It's long over do to protect the public from these vultures.

    October 25, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  13. jane

    Oh, by all means, do keep the conversaton going. As long as you can delay, you can get away with doing nothing. Meanwhile, the country is suffering. People are dying.

    October 25, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. Brian Rich

    Conservative Dems have to decide how afraid they are of their belligerent, ignorant and violent Republican constituents before they can commit.

    October 25, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  15. RTB

    To Mike in MN,
    So? Sounds like a good plan to me.

    In fact that is the nature of true National Security.

    October 25, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  16. Read the Bill

    For all those that want a public option...look at the waste in fraud in Medicare and Medicaid. Can you honestly beleive a public option will save money? The government cannot even make enough H1N1 vaccine let along run our health care.

    October 25, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  17. Annie, Atlanta

    Jeffersonian Democrat, Blue Dog Democrat, Conservadem, no matter what they want to call themselves, they're all conservatives to me, with conservative constuents, and are towing the Republican party line. But one question I would be asking if I were in the media, over and over again is how long have they've been benefiting from, and would they be willing to give up their government run health care?

    October 25, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  18. Marry

    Thank you Beverly in NC!
    For decades there are efforts to fix the health care system. Not to take this opportunity to bring real change including a national public health insurance option for the American public would just be a big irresponsibility on everybody that does not vote for it! That the GOP does not want it we know – but if the Dems do not ALL support it, they prove some voices right that say, the Dems just have not the backbone to come together, support the American public and the President. Perhaps some of the blue ones are talking too much to and taking too much from the insurance companies?

    October 25, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  19. kj

    Can anyone explain why a state opting in or out is good for a paticular state? Aren't we talking about the "National" debt? If one state is not "in" how do they save money?

    It seems to me that the insurance companies haven't had any competition. Truely to save the govt, we would want to spend the least amount of money... NonProfit Healthcare, it doesn't need to be run by the Govt.

    October 25, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. Florence

    I don’t get it, if insurance companies are getting rich, why government cannot do the same?
    I think this is why. The insurance companies are using the same tactic of “mushroom cloud” the Bush Administration used to get us into Iraq. They put our money and our children life on line in order to secure billions in oil revenues and their war machine companies such as Halliburton, Black Water and so on.
    So now the insurance companies are making billions and pocketing it. They’re capitalist as long as they make money, but socialist when the government has to bail them out. That’s why they are spending millions of dollar in bribing our SERVANTS the Senators and Congress and in order to stop competition against their lucrative business. So basically what is good for them is bad for us! I’m sick of these freak bastards, no good politicians and their stupid, uneducated, tea party socialist phobias followers making decisions for the rest of us, which by the way happen to be the “MAJORITY”. One vote one voice, let’s change the voting system in America. I don’t want no Hill Billies, Bible thumpers, Right Wing a.. h…. dictating my way of life.

    October 25, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  21. David

    Stop calling it a public option.Call it what it really is a gov option.Consider the facts about gov options,there are no options.Its do as we say or else.You can see how great gov runs thing like social security(going broke)medicare(going broke)medicade(going broke)Amtrack(allready broke)Post office(allready broke)as well as gov, totally broke.Really now what makes anyone think a gov, that in its millitary buys thousand dollar hammers,has the worlds poorest record of on budget projects,can actually be trusted to not go broke with a gov option,when they admit theyre broke?Oh ya they did not go broke with the prescription drug thing.Because they do not run it.Its run by private companies.So lets all just ignore the non broke private system of HC and instead of trying to fix,it give gov full controll of it.I sense the word more broke written all over this one.

    October 25, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
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