Senator Schumer: "There Will Be a Public Option"

Today on CBS' Face the Nation, two senior Senators, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, on the  Senate Finance Committee offered widely different assessments on how the final health care reform package would look. Not surprising, the object of their discord was the public option in the US health care reform proposals now working their way through the Senate.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, was emphatic. "Make no mistake about it, the president is for this strongly. There will be a public option in the final bill." Naturally, Iowa's Republican Senator Chuck Grassley begged to differ. "The federal government is in the process of nationalizing banks, nationalizing General Motors. I'm going to make sure we don't nationalize health insurance and [the] public option is the first step to doing that," countered Senator Grassley.

More from The Hill:

Despite the bipartisan negotiations going on behind the scenes on the Finance Committee, Schumer pointedly noted that the House and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee have written a public option into their bills. Combined with Obama's continued support for the proposal, Schumer suggested, that bodes well for the prospects of the public option making into the final legislation the president wants on his desk this Autumn.

"The House has proposed its plan, has a strong public option. The HELP Committee, the other committee in the Senate doing this, has proposed a strong public option," Schumer said.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and six other committee members, including Grassley, have been meeting behind closed doors to draft a bipartisan bill. At the urging of Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), the senators are leaning toward setting aside a true public option in favor of establishing not-for-profit, member-owned health insurance cooperatives to compete with traditional insurance companies. Though the notion appeals to Republicans and some centrist Democrats, supporters of the public option do not view it as an acceptable compromise.

Schumer emerged earlier this year as a vocal proponent of the public option and offered a model for the plan that he positioned as a compromise itself. Under Schumer's proposal, which closely resembles what the House and the HELP Committee are considering, the public option would receive no federal funding, be financed entirely by premiums and have to abide by the same insurance regulations as private firms.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) reiterated on Fox News Sunday that the lower chamber's bill will include a strong public option. "We think there's going to be a public option. Yes, we think we need that. We need to make sure that there is an option available for public that can't get through at the private insurance. We think that's essential if you're going to have access," Hoyer said.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated that a public option would be a deal-breaker for Republicans. "I think having the government have a plan to compete with the private sector is unfair, because the government has no cost of capital," Boehner said.

On the other hand, the public option is our line in the sand. It's non-negotiable.

Update [2009-7-5 23:29:17 by Charles Lemos]: There seems to be some contention as to Senator Schumer's comments. Here's the relevant part of the transcript:

SCHUMER: Well, we're making every effort to reach common ground. But let me just say this. We need somebody to keep the public -- the private insurance companies honest. They are terribly concentrated. In Chuck Grassley's own state, 71 percent by one company. In 94 percent of the markets, according to the Justice Department, health insurance is highly concentrated. So without a public option, you're going to have no competition. And the public is going to be forced -- you know, they don't like the insurance companies simply raising prices and raising prices and cutting back on coverage and cutting back on coverage. I am not saying that the public option should be the only option. There are some who do say that, particularly in my party. But we shouldn't say there should be no public option. We should have this insurance exchange and let both sides compete. And let's see which one does better. Each one claims to have advantages. I think both will exist in the market. A public option may be better for some. A private insurance company may be better for others. No one is going to force anyone who has private insurance to give it up. The president has promised that over and over again. And we can come to a middle ground. Already, John, the House has proposed its plan, has a strong public option. The HELP Committee, the other committee in the Senate doing this, has proposed a strong public option. The Finance Committee, we're trying to come to some compromise but make no mistake about it, the president is for this strongly. There will be a public option in the final bill, some form of it. And hopefully Chuck Grassley and I and others can come to an agreement on how that should work. We want it to be a fair, level playing field, but you need something the big boys honest. And the only thing that really is out there is a public option. We don't trust the private insurance companies left to their own devices and neither do the American people. Seventy percent of the American people support a public option. So do 50 percent of...

The full transcript is at Real Clear Politics. My read is that Senator Schumer was unequivocal. There will be a public option. Your thoughts? Did he or didn't he?

Tags: Public Option, Senator Charles Grassley, Senator Chuck Schumer, US Health Care Reform (all tags)



If there is a public option

... then the democratic party will have a public following. I promise you, people are miffed at Obama for seemingly doing nothing but spending and now with the economy on a knifes edge, openly asking whether or not it works.

The public option will have a real, tangible, and far-reaching impact on society and it is in huge demand. This type of representative government, is exactly what smart government is all about.

by Trey Rentz 2009-07-05 06:55PM | 0 recs
Re: If there is a public option

I like your wording. Spot on. Kudos.

by Charles Lemos 2009-07-05 07:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Senator Schumer: "There Will Be a

This AP article contradicts what Shumer said this morning... cle/ALeqM5jlMpJGn28kqCcgU-aGcYE_ZHW-ywD9 98FSQ80

But, we don't know when these quotes were made... they could be old quotes for all we know...

Anyone have more info?

by LordMike 2009-07-05 07:03PM | 0 recs
AP article is crap

they basically took what Grassley said and spun it as the opinion of "Senators"

BTW, the AP also ran this today; cle/ALeqM5jRH9HWyWEzTKMtInJchGBO1POSYQD9 97PUIG0

Which, oddly, is nearly verbatum a right-wing talking point memo on healthcare I recently saw.

by DTOzone 2009-07-05 07:21PM | 0 recs
Re: AP article is crap

You mean the media is reprinting a political press release and selling it as news?  I am shocked--Shocked, I tell you!

by SuperCameron 2009-07-05 08:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Senator Schumer: "There Will Be a

I updated the post to include the full comment and a link to the transcript. Thanks!

by Charles Lemos 2009-07-05 07:30PM | 0 recs
I agree that Schumer did clearly come out

for the public option...his position on "finding common ground" is political show. He was asked a question about finding common ground and answered it (the AP, for some reason, decided to leave that out...I noticed they failed to say; "In response to being asked about working across party lines, Schumer said..." I guess that must be something they taught only us in Journalism 101)

I mean, Schumer was not going to respond "Well the Republicans don't see it our way, so we're just going to ignore them"...although if you read on, that's pretty much what he did say.

I noticed the AP article LordMike got started like this;

It will take a compromise on a government option for insurance if the Senate is to agree on a health care overall before next month's break, two senators said Sunday.

Schumer never said that...Grassley did, so it wasn't "two senators"

by DTOzone 2009-07-05 07:51PM | 0 recs
If we dont get a public option passed this year

The Democrats are finished for a generatio.  We have been promised this so many times and not getting it this time is going to be the straw that finally breaks the camel's back.  

by Kent 2009-07-05 07:59PM | 0 recs
I have read that the HELP committee's

public option has significant limitations. For instance, if you already have employer-provided coverage worth more than X amount per year, you won't be able to choose the public option. Someone fill me in if this is not accurate.

The public option should be available to all Americans on day one.

by desmoinesdem 2009-07-05 08:01PM | 0 recs
I think that's true

but I talked to someone from HCAN back early during the campaign when I was working for ABC and they even admitted it was unlikely any healthcare reform package with a government run option would be open to everybody, so it's not surprising...basically, I think it keeps those with expensive policies out.

by DTOzone 2009-07-05 09:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Senator Schumer: "There Will Be a

There's so much horse-trading (and rumor and speculation about horse-trading) going on with this that it endangers the entire endeavor.

I'll put it this way, if a plan passes that taxes extant health benefits, kiss the Congress goodbye in 2010.

by SuperCameron 2009-07-05 08:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Senator Schumer: "There Will Be a

And we can also kiss Congress goodbye in 2010 if Democrats dare go into that election without a bill signed into law.  

by Kent 2009-07-05 09:06PM | 0 recs
Pretty much we should just kiss Congress goodbye

by DTOzone 2009-07-05 09:12PM | 0 recs


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