Public option fails in the Senate

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September 29, 2009 The "public option" amendment, proposed by proposed by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, intended to amend America’s Healthy Futures Act of 2009 failed in a 15-8 vote by the Senate Finance Committee.[1]

No public option

America's Healthy Futures Act of 2009 is sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana. The Senate Finance Committee began marking up the bill and creating amendments to add to the bill on September 22, 2009.

Rockefeller’s "public option" amendment, the Consumer Choice Health Plan, would have created a government-managed health insurance plan. Rockefeller chooses not to call it a public plan, saying it supports the free-market.

“I don’t call it the public option,” stated Rockefeller. “I don’t see any reason why we don’t do this. I cannot understand why we wouldn’t do this. I think Adam Smith would have cooked up this amendment if I hadn’t.”

“Yes, it is started by the federal government and it has an administrator, but the administrator cannot have anything to do with what goes on – cannot set any rates, premiums, adjust up or adjust down," said Rockefeller. "And it’s optional; optional to the extent that most people say that less than 5 percent of people will avail themselves of this plan”

Rockefeller hoped the Consumer Choice Health Plan would pressure the health insurance industry enough to lower premiums.

“This one little consumer choice plan will cause people in the health insurance industry to reconsider the premiums they’re doing because there is the competition,” said Rockefeller. “Because of consolidation there is not now genuine competition. They’re getting away with banditry. I feel so strongly about it because it makes so much sense.”

Opposition to public option

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican asked questions about creating another extensive government entity when other government programs are heading to collapse.

“At a time when major government programs, like Medicare and Medicaid, are already on the path to fiscal insolvency, creating a brand new government program will not only worsen our long-term financial outlook, but also negatively American families that enjoy the private coverage of their choice,” said Hatch.

Hatch believes the Rockefeller public option amendment would slide the country into a single-payer, universal health care system, which he said would take away true choice.

“The goal of health care reform was to make it more affordable,” explained Hatch. “I believe this new government plan is nothing more than a Trojan Horse for a single-payer system. Washington-run programs undermine market-based competition, improve their ability to impose price controls, and shift costs to other purchasers.”

Sen. John Ensign, a Republican from Nevada, dislikes a measure in the amendment that mandates that doctors opt-in to the public option in order to participate in the Medicare program. Under the amendment, doctors who want to participate in Medicare would have been required to participate in the public option for a two-year period, from 2013 to 2014.

“Even though it’s not required for (doctors) to participate, if they want to participate in Medicare they have to participate in this program under the amendment by Sen. Rockefeller,” said Ensign. “If Sen. Rockefeller’s amendment was adopted, about a third of the market would go to this public option. If you’re going to practice medicine, you’re going to have to take this.”

Arguments for

New Jersey Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez said that calling the Rockefeller amendment a government-run plan is misleading.

“I have heard already that the public plan is government-run insurance,” said Menendez. “To me that is absurd and everyone knows it. It will not be government-run; it will be independent, it will be self-financed, it must be self-sustaining. That to me is not a government-runs insurance program.”

Menendez says the public option would make the insurance market more competitive, something that he says does not exist now.

“Health insurance is probably one of the least competitive businesses in America,” stated Menendez. “Health insurance markets are almost entirely local. 94 percent of insurance markets in the United States are now highly concentrated.”

Confrontation continues around a similar amendment New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer sponsored, found in a list of the amendments.

External links

See also: Sen. Rockefeller accepts donations from health insurance companies


  1. "BREAKING: Rockefeller Public Option Amendment Fails," West Virginia Watchdog, September 29, 2009