The twin killing by the Senate Finance Committee almost certainly means that its health reform package will be without a public option.
Rockefeller, who chairs the committee's health panel, took his most visible role yet in the health reform debate, chastising the health insurance industry for a long history of anti-patient policies, and saying that the current reform package doesn't go far enough in stemming such practices.
Rockefeller outlined more than $500 billion in government subsidies written into the bill that he said would ultimately go to the nation's insurers with little being asked in return. “They have never followed the rules,” Rockefeller charged, referring to the private-payer community. He added: “Which comes first, the insurance companies or the American people?”
The amendment would have created a public health insurance option, called the Consumer Choice Health Plan, which would compete directly with the private plans. It would have paid providers based on Medicare rates for two years, eventually moving to a payment schedule based on public and private best practices.
The second debate and vote played out similar to the way the first one did, with Democrats saying that the public option is needed to keep private companies in check and Republicans calling it a slippery slope to government-run healthcare.
The provision offered by Schumer would have created a so-called “level playing field” option, where a public plan adheres to the same rules as private ones and does not rely on the government. The Schumer proposal also would have paid providers based on negotiated rates, not Medicare's fee schedule.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), a former insurance commissioner for Florida, said that the insurance industry needs strong incentives to change their practices. “If you did not crack the whip, there was going to be cherry-picking, there was going to be every excuse not to cover,” he said.