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Public Option "Plan B" In the Works

November 11, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

You’ve probably heard the reports that some Democrats in the Senate — or at least senators who caucus with the Democrats — are threatening to filibuster the health care bill if it contains a public option. Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT], for example, says he’ll join Republicans on a filibuster of a bill that includes a public option and isn’t willing to wiggle on his position. Other Democrats that are not supportive of the public option and have not ruled out filibustering include Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE], Sen. Evan Bayh [D, IN], Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] and Sen. Mary Landrieu [D, LA].

Not surprisingly, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has a “Plan B” for passing a health care bill if these conservative Democrats do in fact filibuster. Congress Daily tonight gives us a preview of the plan:

Even as Senate Majority Leader Reid seeks votes for a healthcare bill with a public option that states can opt-out of, Reid has allowed Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., to work on what one aide called a “Plan B” if Reid cannot line up 60 votes for cloture.

Carper said he and some other senators, whom he declined to name, are working on an alternative public option if the opt-out falls short.

In states where private insurers fail to offer affordable coverage, Carper said the alternative would permit them to set up a non-profit board, likely appointed by the president, to offer insurance.

“That kind of approach might come close to hitting a sweet spot for a lot of people,” said Carper, noting the approach “addresses concerns about government-owned, government-run.”

At most, this is a sort of ghost of the public option plan. It combines the weakest possible derivatives of the original plan in respect to both its implementation and its operation. Instead of taking effect across the board, it would getting “triggered” only in states that don’t cross a certain “affordability” threshold for insurance plans. Instead of being a robust, national government-run program with the economy of scale to sell insurance at below market rates and drive down costs, it would be a series of small, state-based, private non-profits.

It takes Sen. Olympia Snowe’s [R, ME] “trigger” and Sen. Kent Conrad’s [D, ND] “co-ops,” and combines them to make a plan that probably would never take effect, and if it does, wouldn’t actually do anything. This is the absolute weakest possible derivative of the public option that anyone could say, with a straight face, has its roots in the public option idea.

Reid and Carper know their idea is absurdly weak; that’s why they have been trying to keep it secret:

The Democratic aide said staffers have tried to keep Carper’s alternative quiet due to concerns that publicity could draw attacks from liberal activists, which could complicate efforts to line up support from the full Democratic caucus.

It’s hard to imagine that Reid and Carper even mean this is a serious policy proposal. To me, it seems like a plan to keep at least a memory of the public option alive in the Senate’s health care bill. If they can’t pass the public option, this would serve as a kind of place holder in the Senate’s bill for where the public option would go if it were there. That might be enough to keep the House-Senate conference committee negotiations revolving around the question of “what kind of public option” to include in the final bill rather than whether or not to include any kind of public option at all.

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  • sreilly 11/12/2009 4:15am
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    + -1

    How about this for a plan B: single payer or medicaid-for-all forced through the reconciliation process. It’s about time these so obviously bought and paid-for senators had their chairmanships taken away, or at least punished in some way for screwing the party of which they claim to be a member. The Democratic party needs to step up and cut out the conservative cancer that is threatening to destroy it. It time to play hardball.

  • spender 11/12/2009 5:12am

    I’ll bet there are a lot of very amused PR professionals right now. I caught a few seconds of a local Anaheim news broadcast on my vacation recently, and they had coverage of the anti-health care protests in Washington. But by coverage I mean they had a solemn sounding newscaster narrating the transitions between interviews with protesters, convinced this legislation would destroy the country, and with Republican speaches in Congress, declaring it an affront to freedom. Then there was one shot of Pelosi saying this bill urgently needed to pass, and they moved on to another story.

    The fact that crap like that broadcast can pass for information, let alone for actual public discourse, is amazing.

  • jlohman 11/12/2009 5:48am

    Unfortunately, sreilly, the insurance industry owns the Dems too. Nothing positive is going to happen until we fix our corrupt political system. Only public funding of campaigns will return the government to the people.

  • SherryJ 11/12/2009 7:14am

    This bill is not about Health Care – it is about an ideology. This bill would limit our freedoms, bankrupt small businesses and redistribute wealth. It goes way beyond fixing what is wrong and destroys what is right. WHERE IS THE COMMON SENSE? Our country has NO money and a deficit that is uncomprehensible that we will pass on to our kids and grandkids. We are in a deep recession, unemployment is over 10%.

    It is time that our elected officials hear us and do what we, their constituents, want. We do NOT want government-run health care! No public option or anything like a public option by another name and no trigger for one! We want a bi-partisan, self-funded, budget-neutral bill that only addresses the problems: coverage for uninsured legal US citizen; finally get around to finding the fraud in Medicare and stop it; malpractice tort reform; and no mandates or fines. Only address what is NOT currently working and leave the rest of us alone! VOTE NO ON THIS BILL!!

  • Comm_reply
    baldeagle 11/12/2009 1:23pm

    “Where is the common sense?” you asked. Not in Washington DC. Our elected officials will not hear us. The only way is to vote them all out and get someone elected that will represent us. Most of them think we are stupid…and maybe they are right, if we keep sending them back to DC..

  • sreilly 11/12/2009 8:30am

    SherryJ, we’re not getting government run health care. If the public option goes through then we get a tiny government run insurance plan that only people who can’t get other insurance are allowed to purchase. The government will not be losing money on that deal.

    As a small business owner I would love to have REAL “government run health care” just like they have in the UK, but that simply won’t happen in this country. In the UK’s system, the average person pays $2815 per year. I pay over $13000 for my (three person) family’s private insurance plus co-pays, a $400 deductible and more if I go to an out of network provider. I’ve lived in the UK for two years and was extremely happy with the speed and quality of health care in their system and would choose it any day.

    Government run health care? sign me up! but we’re not going to get anything close to that here in US because too many people think it would “cost too much” to live in a healthy society.

  • nlb99 11/12/2009 11:54am

    “cost to much”? Obama has already said in one of MANY speaches that he is going to cut Medicare $500 BILLION, they are making it mandatory that all americans take it and if they don’t they will be fined and possibly prisoned. They are coming up with so many taxes, that the $13000 you pay might look good after Obama is finished with us. They are wanting people to start paying for this insurance next year, but the insurance will not take effect for 5 years. This info came from the horses mouth. I have no problem with them coming up with a better way, but some common sense would be nice also. Obama and his shoe shiners are trying so hard to make a name for themselves that they are not looking at the big picture, America is broke so how bad is it going to hit all of our pocket books.

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