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Bid to Revive Public Option Fails in Senate Committee

In the latest showdown over health care, the Senate Finance Committee voted Tuesday to reject a proposal to add a public insurance option to a reform bill. Betty Ann Bowser reports.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The debate over a government-run health plan reached a critical point today. Several Senate Democrats tried to add the public option to a reform bill being readied for the Senate floor.

    NewsHour health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser has our lead story report.

  • SEN. MAX BAUCUS, D-Mont.:

    Going to be an interesting week, guys and gals. The committee will come to order.

    BETTY ANN BOWSER, NewsHour correspondent: Today's much anticipated debate in the Senate Finance Committee focused on one of the most contentious issues in health care reform. A government-run insurance option to compete with private insurers is a primary goal for liberal Democrats, but has so far received a lukewarm reception from party moderates and no support at all from Republicans.

  • SEN. MAX BAUCUS:

    My larger goal is to enact health care reform. I want the strongest bill that I can possibly get.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus pointedly left the public option out of his proposal, but today two fellow Democratic senators tried to revive it with amendments.

  • SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER, D-W.Va.:

    And I hope very much that it will be considered for what it is, and that is practical and important.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    First, West Virginia's Senator Jay Rockefeller argued a public plan as part of a new consumer exchange is the best way to rein in rapidly escalating health care costs over the next decade.

  • SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER:

    It's voluntary. It would simply guarantee that there is at least one health insurance plan in the exchange, like everybody else, that ordinary Americans can afford and can count on to have more moderate premiums and yet the same benefits, or perhaps more. We'll see. It's stable. It's affordable. I believe it saves $50 billion.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    But Utah Republican Orrin Hatch warned a public option would only make health care more expensive.

  • SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R-Utah:

    I thought the goal of health reform was to actually make it more affordable. Now, let me make a very important point. Now, I believe this: A new government plan is nothing more than a Trojan horse for a single-payer system in Washington. Washington-run programs undermine market-based competition through their ability to impose price controls and shift costs to other purchasers.

    Proponents of this government plan seem to count on the efficiency of the federal government in delivering care for American families since it is already doing such a great job with our banking and automobile industries.

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