November 22nd, 2009
10:25 AM ET
13 years ago

Durbin open to changing public option to pass health care bill

Washington (CNN) - The Senate's second-ranking Democrat said Sunday he was open to changing the government-run public health insurance option in the chamber's health care bill to ensure that the measure passes.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate assistant majority leader, said on the NBC program "Meet the Press" that the goal is to inject competition into the health insurance market in order to bring down costs and expand coverage to people unable to afford coverage now.

The public option is the most controversial provision in the $848 billion bill unanimously opposed by Republicans. Several conservative and moderate Democrats also have said they will oppose a final bill that includes the public option.

Asked about a possible compromise that would trigger a public option in the future if specific thresholds for coverage and costs go unmet, Durbin said there were "many variations on the theme."

"We are open because we want to pass the bill," Durbin said.

The Senate voted 60-39 on Saturday night to open debate on the sweeping bill that would overhaul the nation's ailing health care system. Democrats needed the support of their entire caucus, including two independents, to prevent Republicans from filibustering the start of debate.

Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who voted Saturday to start debate on the bill, reiterated Sunday he would join a Republican filibuster if the public option remains in the proposal when it comes time to end the debate.

"I don't think anybody feels this bill will pass" in its current form, Lieberman said on the NBC program, adding that the public option would be an unnecessary step now as the United States faces high unemployment and a growing federal deficit.

The procedural vote represented another milestone in what has become an epic battle over the future of America's health care system. The House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill with a price tag of more than $1 trillion earlier this month.

If the Senate also manages to pass a bill, a congressional conference committee will then need to merge the House and Senate proposals into a consensus version requiring final approval from each chamber before moving to President Barack Obama's desk to be signed into law.

Filed under: Dick Durbin • Health care • Joe Lieberman • Senate
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. ICARE

    We need to do it right! The ways to get healtchcare is to bring down costs by allowing for new research to go through so new drugs and equipments can be made cheaper.

    Right now, there is a way to scan hearts for a machine of 2K and it cannot pass because machine that cost 1 zillion has the ears and eyes of the FDA.

    Let's reform FDA and any governmental regulations and that will get healtchare cost down. Then, let's hire more doctors. As for as I'm concerned our doctors go through 8 years of school and know less than someone whit 8 years of experience from other countries without a degree...

    Stop schooling and adjust it with experiences...

    November 22, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  2. all the news that's fit to omit

    Here is a way to INJECT COMPETITION nitwit, allow for ALL of us to buy across state lines or is that to tough for you to understand?

    Imagine ALL companies vying for ALL citizens in ALL the states?

    Nah, the Democrats would rather lie to the bleating sheep.

    You ALL do realize your taxes are going up, your premiums are going up and your parents and grandparents medicare is going down, don't you?

    Just to help pay for the people that don't want insurance or the illegals, real smart Dems.

    Why not just worry about the LEGAL ones falling through the cracks that WANT OUR HELP.

    My bad, logic and liberalism don't quantify that, lets bleep the whole system to help the few.

    So says Heir Obama.

    November 22, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  3. Susan in NC

    Though I don't agree with the "triggers" idea, I thank you, Senator Durbin, for being open-minded and agreeable to further debate and reconciliation. "Staying the course" is NOT an option and I prefer a strong public option available to everyone. NOW is the time!

    November 22, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  4. Old White Virginia Female

    The American people are just going to have to settle for an extremely watered down version of a health care package that is such a baby step that it is ridiculous. This is not change. Attacking the donut hole in 2019 but giving seniors $500 more toward their prescription costs in 2010? Please. How ridiculous is that? I am joining the rolls of Medicare in January 2010 and my prescription costs are going to fall into the donut hole in freaking March. It is no wonder that the American people look at the Congress with total disgust. They are incapable of doing anything even when one party is in control because of all the people wandering around the halls who are Republicans dressed in a Democratic raincoat. Not to mention these representatives will allow themselves to be influenced by a bunch of Roman Catholic priests turned lobbyists. When are we ever going to be able to elect true representatives of the people?

    November 22, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  5. Proud member of "Global Zero:

    If I am forced to buy insurance without a Pubic Option to keep costs down, you may as well throw me in jail now. Half my family is insured. My oldest son was force off my policy at 21. He works part time and goes to school part time. My husband was forced to find another job when car sales bottomed out. He now has a job without insurance. We pay our bills but my families insurance policy is almost starving me.

    Stand up for what we voted for, or we will stay home in 2010. Why work so hard to get dems elected when they act like Republicans. We can get republicans for free. They care nothing about the middle class,,,,just the rich.

    November 22, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  6. Bev

    Based on recent polls–Gallup, Rasmussen, Real Clear Politics-–the Independents do NOT support this Bill by 60%!!!!

    Based on recent polls–(same as above)-–the Independents said that they will vote for the Republicans by 52%-30%.

    Based on recent polls-(same as above)–Obama's approval/support is now below 50%!!!

    Senator Bennet-–and many other Dems-–better be okay with losing their seats in 2010 and 2012-as that is EXACTLy what is going to happen!!

    Independents will be voting with the Republicans in 2010-–to vote out as many Democrats as possible!!!

    The main stream media will have puzzled/shocked looks on their faces-–when they realize that even their manipulation/spin of the news–could not even save the Dems!!!

    I can't wait for 2010!!!

    November 22, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  7. Dan, TX

    Who cares for what Sen. Durbin says. Go away.

    November 22, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  8. Senior Lilarose in Oregon

    The Senate membership needs to remember who is in charge here!

    The People!

    And the People have firmly stated that they WANT THE PUBLIC OPTION!

    I am hoping when the final vote comes, if the public option is not in the bill, that we finally see the American People rise up and protest across the country like we have done over other issues, such as the wars!

    November 22, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  9. Fed Up

    Don't bother to change it. Nancy will push through what she wants, regardless of what the people want, as she has stated. Arrogance? She is the queen!!! This needs to be done right, not quickly. That doesn't matter though. Nancy knows best.

    November 22, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. bob in LA

    Comprimise for the benefit of the bill is fine as long as they don't comprimise out the benefits to Americans.
    If there is wording that needs to be changed fine. Clarify. But the meat fo this is not a political football- it's for the health of us regular guys out here.

    November 22, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. Meidy

    Lord, give me strength! I just can't understand how anyone buys into the notion that a gov't sponsored 'anything' brings competition. This is the place of $700 toilet seats, remember? How 'bout the ol' regulated phone industry or regulated airline prices? The concept of "insurance" means the vast majority in the pool pay more in premiums than they ever hope to recover in are insuring against a catestrophic loss. That's how car and home insurance works. How do people expect to get health insurance for "free"? Nothing is very careful what you wish for.

    November 22, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  12. John

    Why is it that people claim that Republicans care about the rich and Democrats care about the middle class? What a lie! Who was the last non-hollywood or non-millionaire that Obama spent time with? I will give you all a little clue, no party cares about anything except buying votes. They are all deranged Robin Hoods...robbing from everyone and giving just enough back to get re-elected. Change is coming...will you be part of the solution or the fake solution that so many people bought into last year?

    November 22, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  13. Sarah, Northern Colorado

    Health care needs true reform. New laws need to be passed regarding hospitals and costs, and the current system needs a complete overhaul. The insurance companies charge too much, and even those who have insurance have a huge chance to wind up amongst our destitute should anything major happen to them.

    We desperately need a public option. We also desperately need regulation for the health care industry. Please think of the people in this country, and think of why Obama promised health care for all in the first place!

    November 22, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  14. g ontario

    no strong public option is no fix all

    November 22, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  15. katiec

    Those voting against Public Option are voting for the insurance companies to remain in complete control on health care and the continuation of the raping of the American people.
    We can no longer allow or accept big business to run, control our country making crucial decisions on our behalf. We are all victims of what has happened these last eight years.
    We must demand Health Care Reform contain a comprehensive, strong Public Option and the political games that are going on,
    sacrificing us and our country come to an end.

    November 22, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  16. A Citizen

    Senior Lilarose in Oregon – perhaps you missed it. The majority of Americas oppose the public option.

    I want the government to stop creating massive programs that we can't possibly afford. I have yet to see the government run anything in a cost effective manner. STAY OUT OF HEALTH CARE! This is nothing more than a power grab of 20% of our economy.

    November 22, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  17. Right wingnuts are the darlings of dementia

    Buying insurance across state lines is a nitwit's answer that provides no reform at all. Insurance companies will flock to the states with the least restrictions, like the credit card companies did. They will offer a list of doctors that may not be the best qualified, or close to your own state.

    November 22, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  18. Big Daddy

    Don't you dare agree to do anything the gop wants.They have had years of control to help with health care and did nohing !! The same as abortion,they had control and did squat !! Move this along for the good of the people not the cry baby gop...

    November 22, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  19. American Expat

    You might agree or disagree on the plan, as it will be finally ironed out, but something we all ought to note is: why the USA is the only western democracy that does not provide universal health care access to its citizens? Touting the point that we have the most advanced, best care, system in the world says nothing when millions of the citizens simple do not have access to that system. And, in addition, it is the less fortunate in society that suffer the most!

    November 22, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  20. Four and The Door

    The Public Option is being brought to you by the economic wizards who thought the Stimulus bill would keep unemployment from rising above 8%. Either they don't know what they are doing or they don't care about what the results really are. As we have seen over and over, all they want to do is pass big spending bills and could care less about the actual results.

    The actual results of a Fedreal Health Insurance bureaucracy will be a huge burden on the people and economy of America without lowering the cost of health care. It is well documented that it will only increase health care costs. Kill this idea and save America from another useless diversion from real improvements in our health care system. This is not one of them.

    November 22, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  21. American Expat

    Well, one can agree or disagree with the plan(s), but there is one thing that is not in question. That is, the USA is the only industrialized, western democracy, that does not provide universal healthcare for its citizens. That, in itself, is shameful and our citizens should stand ready to fix this deficiency in our society. That we have the best, most advanced, healthcare in the world as it is, does not serve as a legitimate excuse for leaving things "as is" and not providing access to that system to ALL our citizens.

    November 22, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. D. Tree

    The Public Option would save taxpayers the most money, and bring down health costs the most. So what's the problem?

    November 22, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  23. Ray Fisher

    Why attempt reform when the most sucessful part is omitted??? We should simply eliminate the monopoly and offer Medicare as an option. The insurance companies will offer better coverage to compete with Medicare while affordability is attained via competetion. Issue solved!!!

    November 22, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  24. Ernie

    What does Dickie Durban know about insurance (nothing) he's an assistant majority lap dog he can't think for him self and he will say anthing to get the health care bill passed. What he doesn't tell the American people is that the American tax payer is paying for his health care and is not available to the American people. Dickie Durban is a do nothing say nothing senator from Illinois. Dickie Durban is a man who can't think for him self he has to have some one do his thinking for him. I'll bet he hasn't read the health care bill that becaues he dosen't know what's in. Everyone will no have what the Democrats have always wanted TAX AND SPEND. Congress is going to do what they are going to do once the bill is passed it will be to late. Well come the second GREAT DEPRESSION.

    November 22, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  25. The Quantum Sociologist

    As big as the Health Care Reform project is, it is not the greatest of the problems that we will face in the near and not-so-distant future. If we can not find common ground on efforts to protect the health of our own children, wives, mothers, fathers, siblings, and other relatives, I see us facing an horrific future. Doesn't is seem that the number of social, political, and environmental fires that need to be put out are increasing? And that they are being increasingly difficult to extinguish. In my humble opinion this trend will continue until we realize that humanity has reached a point in our development where we are in need of a Prime Directive to plot our future course and to prescribe our current and future choices.

    Every species of life has a Prime Directive built into its genetic code. Most forms of life follow their Prime Directive instinctively and without significant variation or deviance. The human animal is different. Humans have, in our minds, elevated ourselves above our fundamental nature, have imagined ourselves separate from the ecosystem of which we are a part and upon which we are mutually dependent, and we have forgotten the process, the importance, and the benefits of Creating Peaceful Space. Without a Prime Directive chaos is inevitable.

    The Prime Directive is the foundational principle or mandate for our journey in the world. Without an umbrella directive that embraces all humankind our cultural traditions, religious ideologies, political philosophies, and racial and ethnic divisions will continue to breed conflict. Creating Peaceful Space is a natural progression of the Prime Directive.



    It could take generations for universal acceptance but it seems clear to me that unless we begin to move in that direction we face what for many is the unthinkable.

    November 22, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
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