Reid to Include Public Option in Senate Bill
This version of the public option will have an “opt out” provision for states that do not want to be a part of the new public insurance system. States would have until 2014 to opt out, Reid said.
Reid said the opt-out provision was the “fairest way to go.”
“The public option is not a silver bullet. I believe it’s an important way to ensure competition and to level the playing field for patients with the insurance industry,” Reid said at press conference at the U.S. Capitol. “As we’ve gone through this process I’ve concluded, with the support of the White House and senators Dodd and Baucus, that the best way to move forward is to include a public option that includes an opt-out provision for states.”
Listen to the full press conference here:
Reid said he would send a new bill, which is a combination of bills passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee and the Senate Finance committee, to the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO will “score” the bill to give an independent estimate as to how much it would cost.
The Senate bill, and the bill being developed in the House, would also make it illegal for health insurance companies to discriminate against people with preexisting medical conditions, would mandate that all Americans buy health insurance and would provide subsidies to families who cannot afford to buy insurance.
As they combined the Senate HELP and Finance bills, a key problem for President Obama and Sen. Reid was trying to find a compromise bill that would please their liberal base while also including enough conservative Democrats to prevent a filibuster – 60 votes.
The most controversial question was whether to include a government-run health insurance program for people without employer-provided insurance.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that the House bill will include a public option.
The Democrats control 60 seats in the U.S. Senate, but Democratic Senators from more Republican-leaning states, like Ben Nelson of Nebraska, have not embraced the creation of a public health insurance option.
President Obama praised the Senate’s work, and the decision to include a public option in the compromise bill.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement that the President “supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition.”