House Democrats appear confident that a robust public option will remain in healthcare reform legislation, despite setbacks in the Senate for such a measure.
Expectations mixed on public-option health plan
The Senate Finance Committee has rejected two amendments to include a public option in the legislation. Finance, however, is just one of five congressional committees that have drawn up a reform bill—and all of the others contain a public option, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters. With President Barack Obama weighing in on this issue, “I think it will prevail,” Larson said after a caucus meeting to discuss ways to bend the cost curve in the House reform bill, the America's Affordable Health Choices Act.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) at a news conference with GOP leaders disputed that assessment. The bipartisan opposition to the public plan in Senate Finance should alert House Democrats to the fact that the public “doesn't want a government takeover of healthcare,” she said.
While support remains strong for a public option in the Democratic caucus, consensus has yet to be reached on how it should be structured. More than 50 House Democrats sent a letter to House leadership stressing their support for the public option.
Setting the rates for a public plan on Medicare plus 5% would save more money and cover more people than basing the reimbursement rates on negotiated rates with providers, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said in an interview.
Several studies that are in the process of being fine-tuned for inclusion in the bill may help some members become more comfortable with the idea of basing the public plan on Medicare rates. One of the studies would examine regional disparities in Medicare reimbursement and the other would explore ways to revamp the reimbursement system.
“That issue has to be satisfied before those affected by disparities” could support a public plan, or healthcare reform in general, Woolsey said.
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