Rockefeller's Robust Public Option Amendment Fails, 8 - 15

The entire morning of the Senate Finance Committee mark up was dominated with heated debate about Rockefeller's robust public option amendment. Liberals said would be need to increase choose, improve competition, and keep private insurance companies honest. Republicans claimed it would the start of a “slow walk” to government run single payer health insurance.

All ten Republicans on the committee voted against the amendment. Five Democrats (Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, Blanche Lincoln, Bill Nelson, Thomas Carper) also voted against the amendment. Eight Democrats (Jay Rockefeller, Jeff Bingaman, John Kerry, Ron Wyden, Charles Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Maria Cantwell, Robert Menendez) vote in support of Rockefeller's amendments.

The debate did have some interesting political developments. Bill Nelson did not really like Rockefeller's public option, because it would pay Medicare rates for the first two years. Nelson seemed to be very open to the way Chuck Schumer designed their plan. He did not talk at length about Rockefeller's robust public option but has endorsed Schumer's “level playing field” public option.

Kent Conrad was very upset that Rockefeller's public option would be tied to Medicare rates given that North Dakota has one of the lowest Medicare reimbursement rates.

He also clearly lives in a fantasy world. Cornad talked about how some systems (Beligium, Netherlands) technically have universal provide by private insurance funds. Yes, it is possible to have a good universal health care system with only private insurance providers, but it needs to be extremely highly regulated. Baucus's bill doesn't come anywhere close to the level of government regulation that kind of system requires to work.

If Conrad offered an amendment copying the robust regulation, generous subsidies, strong bad practice penalties, and powerful risk equalizer of the Netherlands' system; than we can talk about the possibility of reform without a public option.

Olympia Snowe, Thomas Carper, and Blanche Lincoln do not bothered to publicly debate one of the most important amendments. It seems neither Olympia Snowe, Thomas Carper, nor Blanche Lincoln thought they needed to explain their opposition to a robust public option in the official Senate record.

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