A hot button in healthcare reform: US role as insurance provider
Even Democratic senators are still far apart on what a 'public option' would look like.
Two Senate panels are closing in on the toughest unresolved issue in healthcare reform: the scope of a public role in providing insurance.Skip to next paragraph
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What’s not on the table as the Senate reconvenes next week is a government-run, single-payer plan – an option backed by some 80 House Democrats but not by their party leadership.
President Obama favors having a government-run plan compete for customers alongside private insurers. But moving from an employer-based system of private insurance to a single-payer system run by the government “could be hugely disruptive,” he said at a town-hall meeting in Annandale, Va., on Wednesday.
“My attitude has been that we should be able to find a way to create a uniquely American solution to this problem that controls costs but preserves the innovation that is introduced in part with a free-market system,” he said.
If not single-payer, then what?
Debate over alternatives to the single-payer approach is taking place primarily within Democratic ranks. In a new draft plan, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is calling for a public option to pool purchasing power, reduce administrative costs, and expand coverage to all Americans.
“Even in the face of scare tactics and false claims that a public option would destroy consumer choice or the insurance industry, a vigorous public option is what Americans want,” said HELP panel chair Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts and acting chair Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut in a July 1 letter to panel members outlining the plan.
But the Senate Finance Committee, which must find a funding stream for the reforms, is so far focused on alternatives that could win bipartisan support. These include state or regional health insurance “coops” and a “trigger option” that defaults to a public option if reforms fail to give uninsured Americans choices they can afford.
Senator Schumer's 'level playing field'