Public Plan

The Public Health Insurance Option: Trigger-Happy?

by Tim Foley 

New York Times health care policy uber-scribe Robert Pear
has a report today on what’s shaping up not only to be the main fault line in the debate in Congress.  A public health insurance option that would compete directly with private insurance was part of the Obama campaign plan, is strongly supported in the House and even more strongly supported in the details that have circulated of Sen. Kennedy’s plan in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  The Senate Finance Committee is a different story – they’ve gone trigger-happy.

The best quote in the piece is from Sen. Charles Schumer, who says, “It’s pretty certain that Senator Kennedy could not support the Baucus plan, and Senator Baucus could not support the Kennedy plan.”  Such a conflict was going to be inevitable on some detail or other.  The House is considered more progressive than the Senate, but Kennedy’s HELP Committee is traditionally very progressive, reflecting the character of its chairman.  As I wrote earlier this week, the details that leaked from the Kennedy draft, “tilts the emergency health care Congressional consensus away from a watered-down center and decidedly to the left.”  So it was only a matter of time before Kennedy disagreed with Sen. Max Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee.  Much like its chair, the Finance Committee tends to be more moderate and more consensus-focused.  One gets the impression that getting a health care bill with 75 votes -- or even just one that doesn’t tick off ranking Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley -- is just as important to Baucus as getting the best policy.(continued below)