Public Option amendments defeated by Senate Finance Committee listen09/29/09 Seán Kinane
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Florida Senator Bill Nelson today helped defeat an amendment that would have added a public option to the health care reform bill. The Senate Finance Committee took up the public option for the first time. Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said the public option in his amendment would act as a counterweight to what he called the “rapacious” insurance companies.
Rockefeller says that without his amendment, the America’s Healthy Futures Act would give away over a half trillion dollars from the government to private insurance companies without requiring them to put it into coverage. Rockefeller doesn’t consider that a shared sacrifice, since the insurance companies are only contributing $20 billion dollars to health care reform.
Earlier this month, Senator Bill Nelson said that most public option supporters “don't have a clue” about what it would take to create such a plan. But Nelson, who used to be Florida’s Insurance Commissioner, appeared to open the doors Tuesday to supporting Rockefeller’s amendment.
The finance committee’s ranking Republican Senator, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, opposed Rockefeller’s amendment. Grassley believes that if there is a public option, more Americans will choose that plan than private insurance. Grassley predicts that would eventually mean all Americans would be enrolled in the public plan, resulting in a de facto single payer system of universal health care paid for by the government.
Rockefeller responded to the criticisms from Grassley and other Republicans by pointing out that Medicare is a single-payer government-funded program and it is very popular. Senator Nelson challenged Grassley’s assertion that a public option would morph into single-payer. He pointed out information provided by a Finance Committee staffer who said that in several states, two private companies control as much as 81 percent of the health insurance policies.
Nelson still appears to support a non-profit rather than a government-funded public option to compete with private insurers. He joined all the Republicans on the Finance Committee to oppose Rockefeller’s amendment, which failed 15-8. A second public option amendment also failed, 13-10.