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. dwayne

    The Republicans ( a party of white christless, bigoted and racists people) missed the opportunity to do good again; just like Social Security they voted against it. If your poor; The Republicans just don't care.

    November 22, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  2. Ken

    The Public Option really is NOT the right way to go. Our government doesn't handle bureaucracy well.

    Here are two other options:

    1) Limit the insurance company profittering. You can do this by limiting the amount one pays on insurance premiums based upon the precentage of income levels. Or, you set a "profit windfall" tax on the insurance company (where the dollars of that tax go back to the taxpayer in the form of a rebate). If the insurance companies then try to increase premiums to pay for the tax, then they will be fined. ALL of those dollars would got back to us, the taxpayer. The insurance companies, therefore, couldn't job the system.

    2) If you want the Public Option, fine. But make it an "opt-in" not an "opt-out". For any state that does not "opt-in" create a trigger system (as was proposed earlier).

    November 22, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  3. Moe, NY

    PUBLIC OPTION is the only fair way to go for the uninsured in America. Hopefully Sen. Durbin will not sell out the American people to the insurance companies, Republicans, and Conservatives.

    November 22, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. David

    The Catholics are opposed to murder unless it's at their behest. There were the crusades that murdered how many? Then the inquisitions that killed several millions. Later there was their official refusal to oppose the nazi exterminations of eleven plus millions doing WWII. I've also yet to hear official condemnation of abortion clinic bombings and murder of abortion doctors. The Catholic church has massacred more people in the name of their holiness than most people can imagine and few dare criticize their pious deeds.
    There should more to prolife than disallowing women personal choice.

    David in Georgia

    November 22, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  5. sarah

    Hey Bev......
    I know that you are so blinded by Faux Not News....that you are blogging their stats on Heath Care Bill......

    FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. Nov. 17-18, 2009. N=900 registered voters nationwide. MoE ± 3.

    "Based on what you know about the health care reform legislation being considered right now, do you favor or oppose the plan?"

    Favor Oppose Unsure
    35% 51 % 14%
    But what is funny look at what they Approve????

    Would you favor or oppose the government offering some people who are uninsured the choice of a government-administered health insurance plan - also known as a 'public option' - that would compete with private health insurance plans?"
    Favor Oppose Unsure
    61% 28 % 11%

    Makes you go HUH! You people have no CLUE! What the Faux?

    November 22, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. John

    This bill needs the public option.

    November 22, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  7. Carmela, Longwood, Florida

    I find it ironic that the GOP senators will now cry foul and call the Dems. 'arrogant' for having banded around the passing of the health care bill. Of all people, the GOP representatives wrote the book and are the poster children of arrogance, of ignoring everyone's views, and of trashing Dems's efforts to get consensus. It was about time they get their comeuppance. By the same token, I am happy to see that the Dems. finally 'saw the light' and rallied around such an important bill; there is hope on immigration and on many other bills currently in the pipeline, and which will go a long way to make life better for all of us.

    November 22, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  8. Chloe in Chatsworth, CA

    Republicans used the identical language to attack Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965.

    November 22, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  9. independent

    Create a national pool from which subscribers can pick the insurance company they want to use.

    The national plan keeps risks lower for insurance companies by expanding the risk pool. They will need this because they will no longer be able to refuse coverage; in addition, costs are reduced by expanded competition, and some profit margin regulation.

    Keep a 'pubic' option by creating a national pool. Current, smaller employer pools are to small and too variable to keep costs fair for each.

    November 22, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  10. Joshua College Station Texas

    The public option is the most controversial because it is the only component of the bill that has any possible to bring about real meaningful change. It's the only part with real teeth, the only part with a chance to check the power of insurance companies. They can maintain their profits lost by being forced to cover high-risk folks by getting all the new customers that will be forced to get insurance policies. But if those new customers actually have the option to go with something reliable and dependable, like a government option will be, then chances are they will go there and the insurance companies could lose all that business. Too bad, so sad.
    Pass the public option! It will help all us regular folks by forcing insurers to offer competitive prices for your policies in order to keep your business!

    November 22, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  11. cheryl

    I am proud of our president, that he has gotten this far with the health bill.
    This shows that he really cares, unlike the lying GOP who NEVER did a good thing while in office.
    I am confident that this bill will change history for this country.
    I am proud that is is being done by a democrat.
    Congratulations Mr. President!

    November 22, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. Carnell From The Motor City!

    Here We Go Again! People (Democrats) Trying To Sell Out On The Public Option, All While Letting Those With No Fortitude (Leiberman) Dictate The Terms And Call The Shots.

    November 22, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. B

    The Public Option is the ONLY thing that will make a worthwhile effect on the health care bill and they all know it!
    That is why so much effort to keep it out of the final bill..

    November 22, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain

    No trigger! The health insurance companies don't deserve it, after all the harm they have done to people in the name of profit.

    Here's how to fund the public option:

    1. Eliminate the FICA tax cap on income above $90,000. This would generate a huge source of funds. (Right now, no FICA is paid on individual income above $90,000.)

    2. Change the top tax rate to what it was under Ronald Reagan: 39%. Right now, the top rate is 36%; people making higher incomes can afford to pay an additional 3%.

    Are these "taxes on the rich?" Yes, they are. And the wealthy can certainly afford it. After all, it's the least they can do for the country that has given them the opportunity to create their wealth in the first place.

    November 22, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    The health care reform bill specifically excludes coverage for illegal aliens.

    Tort reform would result in reducing health care costs by 0.5%.

    The health care reform bill will bring down costs.

    The majority of Americans support the public option.

    November 22, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. Carl PA

    Texas has greatly reduced medical costs with tort reform but this bill will forbid the steps Texas and other states have taken.
    Without tort reform (nowhere in this bill) we are headed in the wrong direction.
    Also don't the caculations include ten years of taxes for about five years of operation. Taxes now coverage changes starting in something like five years. No wonder the numbers don't look worse than they do.

    November 22, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. Keith in Austin

    Dick Durbin will be one of a hoard of liberal Democrats looking for a new job after his re-election bid. Americans supporting him today will soon see the error of their ways when the IRS comes knocking! People vote their pocketbooks and the frivilous spending totally out of control now will come due as early as next year. The liberal stranglehold on Congress will implode as a result! Thank you Democrats for your illegitimate wisdom in knowing what is best for us! I Pray for our great Country knowing where your pitiful leadership is taking us!

    November 22, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  18. American Expat

    Can anyone explain to me why the USA is the only industrialized, western democracy, that does NOT provide universal healthcare for its citizens? I personally cannot think of a single factor that would justify that situation!

    November 22, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  19. America Shrugged

    Medicare for all or at least allowing those without insurance due to pre-existing conditions to get on medicare should have been the first priority. Medicare rules are already in place, and other than an amendment or two, it would have been an easier place to start than what congress has come up with and alot easier for Americans to understand and get behind.

    November 22, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  20. sixpack

    If the current health program is "so great", you wonder why no one in congress have opted out of THEIR cadallac health program to join with the public?

    November 22, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |

    Why do the republicans keep saying that the people do not want the public option or health care reform? the people want it and need it. they have fought against any thing that helps the public. all they care for is big corporations and the riches 1% of the people. they were against medicare, social securityand any thing else that the democrats came up with. also the catholic church ought to be made to pay taxes and stay out of politics.

    November 22, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. Ellid

    NO TRIGGER. There are too many uninsured people losing their homes and businesses and LIVES because of health insurance costs. PUBLIC OPTION NOW!

    November 22, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  23. AlanMaui

    We have seen so much in the debate on health care about the cost of health care and the need to reduce that cost. We have heard nothing about the fact that over 60 percent of Americans are over weight and over half of those are obese. The over weight and obese population consumes a hugely disproportionate amount of the health care dollar. There is a tremendous opportunity to save money on health care by addressing the causes of obesity. In the recent past we have seen class action law suites brought by state attorney generals to recover health care costs from tobacco companies because their products are so damaging to a person’s health, why do we not see the same type of class action law suites to recover some of the health care costs that are caused by the products made and sold by McDonalds, Bugger King, Jack-In-The-Box, etc? A large tax on Junk Food, Fast Food, Sugar Drinks, etc. would force people to make wiser decisions about their nutrition, which in the end would actually make them healthier and they would feel better, and at the same time reduce the national cost of health care. Nutritional education at a very early age could save a tremendous amount of health care costs.

    November 22, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  24. Dennis, Amarillo Texas

    Dick Durbin – He wants HIs Money Now! The Terrorist are providing his State "The Money and Jobs we so badly need now, and we are not going to past it up!" Now he and his Comrades are passing a health bill with a chance to increase our taxes Trillions of Dollars, and "He is not going to pass it up, either!"

    November 22, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  25. Mike in Texas


    Isn't it funny. When polls favor your side or belief you spout them as the gospel, but when they don't support your person or cause you question their validity.

    I am sure you don't do that though do you?

    November 22, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
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