By a 14-9 vote, including a “yes” vote from Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the Senate Finance Committee passed its version of health care reform today. The full Senate will now make a combined bill that will go before the whole chamber, while the House will do likewise. There is a long way to go. But the squeaky wheel is slowly getting its oil.
I don’t like the Finance Committee’s version at all because it doesn’t allow for any kind of public option. And as much as this notion appals staunch fiscal libertarians (including some friends and family members of mine), we can’t trust the insurance companies to keep rates in check without a strong public option. There are just too many parts of this country where one insurance company has a monopoly on the market and can charge whatever it wants.
In one of my previous posts, I mentioned a proposed compromise of including a public option but allowing individual states to opt out. This may give enough Blue Dog democrats and even some more moderate Republicans enough political cover to vote for it. As long as the option has real teeth (which the trigger concept would not provide), that’s what matters most.
Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Carper (D-DE) have been floating a version of health care reform with a public option that allows states to opt out. I like this idea. And it sounds like more conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Max Baucus (D-MT) are warming up to it too.
I think there needs to be a public option, if only a limited one, because health insurance companies can’t be trusted to keep premiums (for the uninsured or people having to buy on their own), co-payments and/or deductibles affordable. In many parts of the country, because of state laws or what not, there may be only one health insurance company to choose from, and costs reflect as much. Even people who have health insurance through their employer can be ruined financially from paying deductibles and co-payments required for treatment of cancer and other major diseases or injuries.
This plan would give reps and senators from more conservative constituencies (who distrust anything coming from Obama) political cover, because they can say they’re simply giving the power to their state rather than actually voting for it. If their constituents don’t want it, their state legislature can simply reject it. If their constituents want it and the legislature opts out, then the legislators will feel the heat.
Most importantly, this is better than the other compromises being floated, such as the “trigger” favored by Olympia Snowe (R-ME) or co-ops that would result in a weaker bill that is doomed to failure.
Certainly other things need to be done to reform healthcare. One tactic that I agree with, favored by former Congressman and 2010 Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey, is to allow people to buy health insurance across state lines. As long as you then allow, say, NJ residents who buy PA or DE insurance to then go to doctors in NJ, this too will increase competition and lower costs.