Is This the End of the Public Option by Gregory Hilton

President Barack Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, today suggested that the White House is ready to accept nonprofit insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run public option in a health overhaul plan. The President has been actively promoting the public option in numerous speeches during the past month but now his administration appears to be throwing in the towel. Secretary Sebelius and Senate Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) have completely changed their rhetoric. Comments on the Huffington Post demonstrate that the left wing is furious.
Republicans will now be blamed for killing health care reform, but the critics must be reminded that Democrats have veto proof majorities in both Houses of Congress. They do not need one GOP vote for passage of the public option. It would be more production for the liberals to direct their anger at Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), the Chairman of the Finance Committee.
Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) today described the public option as “a lost cause” and “a wasted effort.” “Look, the fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the U.S. Senate for the public option, there never have been,” Conrad said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” The President has an op-ed column in today’s NY Times but it does not mention the public option.
There are now five different health reform bills and six Senators (3 Republicans and 3 Democrats) are leading the negotiations. The major topic is co-ops but that was not a great success for Blue Cross. I continue to hope for reforms such as selling insurance across state lines, association health plans and malpractice caps.
Not one House Republican is supporting health care reform’s public option. Democrats need 15 conservative “Blue Dogs” for passage and 4 have already signed on. The August recess is having an impact and non-Blue Dogs such as Artur Davis (AL) have also come out against it. More will follow. Nevertheless, House Speaker Pelosi will find the votes but the public option will not pass the Senate.
Pelosi only needs nine votes. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA), a Blue Dog, has already come out against the bill and says “It would be naive to think this month and what you’ve seen across the country will not have an effect on Blue Dogs. I would expand that beyond Blue Dogs to newly elected members who represent moderate to conservative districts. Spending a few weeks back home and seeing the level of displeasure, it will be tough for them to support this bill.”
What will the Senate pass? The current compromise involves a massive public subsidy to the private health care industry. This will break Obama’s campaign promise to allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug companies, and it will mandates that people without insurance buy inadequate policies or they will be fined by the IRS.
According to Miles Mogelescu in Huffington Post: “This could turn a generation against the Democratic Party, revitalize the Republicans, and ‘prove’ to many Americans that government intervention in the economy is a bad thing.”

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