Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the new chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said that a majority of Senate Democrats want a public option health plan that pays providers based on negotiated rates and runs separate of government funding to be included in a broad reform package.
Harkin said that a “vast majority” of Democrats favor a public option, adding that handful of holdouts would be challenged to back one as well. “Let's face it, we're going in for big-time insurance reforms in this bill,” he said, adding that such a public option—coupled with a new marketplace known as an “exchange”—would force private payers to become more efficient and competitive.
Harkin said that three paths are currently being considered, including a public option that mirrors one passed by the HELP committee in July, one that allows states to opt out and instead create an insurance co-op, or a third choice where a public option kicks in if private payers don't meet certain cost and coverage targets.
Harkin said he favors the HELP version. “I'm advocating what we have in our bill,” he said. “We got it right.”