Senator Brown on health care legislation

08/06/09 Mitch E. Perry
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The Washington Post reported today that Senate negotiators are inching toward bipartisan agreement on a health care plan. The 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans from the Senate Finance Committee briefed President Obama about the progress of their talks today, which are expected to continue throughout the August Congressional recess.

According to the Post, the emerging Finance Committee bill would shave about $100 billion off the projected trillion-dollar cost of the legislation over the next decade, and eventually provide coverage to 94 percent of Americans. It would expand Medicaid, crack down on insurers, and tax health-care benefits under the most generous plans.

But it would also abandon the government insurance option that President Obama is seeking.

Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has been a leading advocate of such a public option for any type of bill that comes out of the U.S. Senate.

As Democrats continue to have trouble attracting any Republicans to buy into their goals on health care, the Senate Finance Committee, which includes Republicans Charles Grassley from Iowa, Mike Enzi from Wyoming, and Olympia Snowe from Maine, has become the last bastion of any hope of bipartisan support.

But some liberals are unhappy about what they say is the disproportionate amount of power those three Senators have on the negotiations. Senator Brown thinks the Democrats can bend only so far.

Jacob Hacker is a professor of Political Science at Yale University and the author of “The Great Risk Shift”. He said that he thinks its important for the bill to get bipartisan support, but doubts if Senators Enzi and Grassley will support it, considering their ideologies.

Hacker is not a fan of so-called co-ops, which Senators are promoting in lieu of a public option. He says that a public option will provide a benchmark on cost and quality for private insurance, a backup for those who don’t have work-based healthcare coverage, and create a cost control backstop.

Although with a strong majority in the House, and 60 votes in the Senate, Democrats would seemingly have enough votes to pass health care reform without much GOP support, centrist Democrats in the Senate and Blue Dogs in the House have been instrumental in changing the legislation to get Republican buy-in.

That’s leading to more criticism now from liberal Democrats. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown says he won’t say definitively that he will oppose legislation if it does not include a public option, but he will not be pleased if it’s not included.

Brown said he would be hosting a Town Hall meeting this month, but told reporters on the conference call to make sure that the arguments being made in such debates are factually accurate.

A Town Hall meeting being hosted by Congresswoman Kathy Castor and State Representative Betty Reed is scheduled to be held tonight in Ybor City.

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