“Public Option” Makes It Through One More Round Of Negotiations

House II

EDITOR’S NOTE (1): An earlier headline for the article implied that the public option may have been removed from the House’s bill. That is not the case, even though the amendment may have been weakened (according to the Huff Post).

A deal was reached on Wednesday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee between Blue Dog democrats and Democrats supportive of the Henry Waxman healthcare bill, but very progressive members of Congress didn’t seem very happy with the deal.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

“Yet there already were signs of trouble in the liberal wing of the House Democratic caucus. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) blasted the deal minutes after it was announced. “This is not going to pass,” she said. “It’s a non-starter. It’s going to cause havoc.”

Although it’s not very clear what Woolsey was upset about, her spokesperson told the NEWS JUNKIE POST that she, along with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus were “very committed to a robust public option.”

Progressive organizations are urging people to call their representatives in the House to tell them to support a strong public option amendment, which was added by Dennis Kucinich this month. The amendment is the closest that Americans will get to a single payer health care system. This legislation could be voted on by the full U.S. House of Representatives before the end of the week even though Democratic leaders promised the full House would not vote on the measure until September.

There are conflicting reports about what was done to the public option. The Huffington Post reports that the option was weakened, while the Talking Points Memo reports the amendment was “intact.” The New York Times reports that the public option remains, thought with a few changes.

Here is what the NYT is reporting about what came out from the negotiations:

¶ Most employers would still be required to provide health insurance to workers or pay a new federal excise tax, but more small businesses could qualify for the exemption, which would be available to businesses with payrolls of $500,000 or less, compared with a threshold of $250,000 in the original House bill.

¶ Medicaid would be expanded, as under the original bill, but states would have to pay a small share of the additional costs, perhaps 7 percent. The federal government would have paid the entire cost under the original bill.

¶ Workers would have to pay slightly more of their income on premiums for employer-sponsored insurance — 12 percent, rather than 11 percent — before they could qualify for federal subsidies.

¶ While the federal government would still establish and run a new public health insurance program, to compete with insurers, the new entity would not use Medicare rates to pay doctors and hospitals. Instead, the government plan would negotiate rates with health care providers, just as private insurers often do.

¶ States could set up nonprofit insurance cooperatives, to offer coverage to individuals, families and small businesses in their states. The Senate Finance Committee is coalescing around a similar idea, but it was not in the original House bill.