Lots of people followed the Senate Finance Committee debate today, which started with a debate on the public health insurance option, and ended with a debate on setting the minimum standards for the value of insurance.
Check out our Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/healthaccess for the blow-by-blow, often retweeting others who were also providing good coverage of the day’s deliberations.
The focus was clearly the debate over the public option. Two amendments were extensively debated. Senator Rockefeller’s amendment lost five Democratic votes. Senator Schumer’s amendment lost three–those of Senator Baucus, Conrad, and Lincoln. In other for it to be accepted, we needed all but one Democrat to vote for the amendment.
Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic says it was predictable, and it was. But regardless of the outcome–either way it went, the fight over the public health insurance wasn’t going to end today. Let’s remember that of the five committees with jurisdiction on health reform, the other four committees all supported a plan with a public health insurance option. There are at least three other opportunities to improve the Senate Finance proposal, on issues like affordability, employer responsibility, and the public health insurance options, in multiple ways:
* when the Senate Finance proposal is merged with the Senate HELP Committee proposal;
* on the Senate floor through an amendment;
* and in conference committee, when the differences between the Senate and House versions are worked out.
It’s clear the public health insurance option doesn’t just have the support of a majority of Americans, but a majority (51+) of the Senate. At this moment, it doesn’t have 60 votes… which means that the opportunities are there, but it will be a challenge. We need to continue to express the need and urgency for health reform, while at the same time continuing our advocacy for the principles that are necessary.
Here’s some reaction from Health Care for America Now!, the national coalition of 1000+ organizations which has been leading the fight for the public health insurance option, and which Health Access is proud to be the lead partner organization in California. Here’s the statement by national campaign manager Richard Kirsch:
“Today, a vast majority – more than ¾ – of the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee joined with all of the Democrats on the Senate HELP Committee to support giving us the choice of a strong public health insurance option. Now four of the five committees that have tackled health care legislation have included a public health insurance option, and the Senate Finance Committee as a whole has proven it’s out of step with the rest of Congress, the President, and a large majority of the American public. As Senators Schumer and Rockefeller said, the public health insurance option is clearly gaining momentum, and we are confident it will be in the final bill that lands on the President’s desk.
The Democratic Senators who spoke out in support of the public health insurance option today made it very clear they understand we cannot leave Americans out in the cold without real choice and competition and at the mercy of the private health insurance companies which will only continue to put their corporate profits before people’s health care needs.”
Let’s keep up the fight.