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Durbin 'Open' to Dropping the Public Option

August 9, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Another sign that the leaders of the Democratic party are giving up on the passing the public option:

The No. 2 Senate Democrat said Sunday that he’s “open” to health care reform that doesn’t include a government-run “public option,” the latest indication that the Democrats’ package could be scaled back as Senate negotiators try to hammer out a bipartisan compromise and constituents flood town halls to express discontent with the current legislation.

The so-called public option is a hot topic of debate at town hall meetings across the country. Supporters say it’s needed to keep private insurance companies in check and extend affordable coverage to all. Critics warn that the government should not have so much control over health care and that a public option could eventually eliminate private insurance.

The Senate Finance Committee, the last of five committees to consider health care legislation, is trying to hammer out a bipartisan compromise by mid-September — such a compromise might leave the public option behind.

Asked whether Democrats could support such a bill, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said he’s personally willing to consider it.

“It doesn’t have to be a perfect bill,” the Illinois Democrat said. “I support a public option, but, yes, I am open.”

The idea behind the public option is that if the government is able to offer better, cheaper health insurance than the private companies, it would provide some competition and help to lower the costs of private plans. Without the public option, the Democrats’ health care reform proposal looks a lot like the system Massachusetts has in place. People would be required to get insurance, but for those above the lowest income brackets who aren’t eligible for subsidies, the cost of buying insurance wouldn’t actually go down at all.

That would mean that a person who makes $44,000 and is not eligible for government subsidies would have to buy insurance at essentially the current market rates ($2,613 is the national average for an individual plan, according to this report) or pay a tax penalty as assessed under the bill of 2.5 percent of income. For someone making $44,000, the tax penalty would be $1,100, less than half the cost of buying an insurance plan. By adding some competition to the health insurance market, the public option could help to close this gap, which could go a long way towards encouraging middle-income people to choose to buy insurance instead of paying the tax.

Watch the clip from Sen. Durbin’s appearance on CNN’s “State of the Nation”:

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  • Anonymous 08/09/2009 10:48pm
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    + -1

    I can’t believe this jerk got re-elected after he compared our soldiers to Nazi’s. No Dick,Now we have the Nazi’s in congress. I can no longer recognize my government as legitimate. That is why you are getting yelled at in those Town meetings. By all gray haired activists,think about how stupid your arguments sound and plastic face Nancy calling us Astroturf people. They want government health care so they can KILL YOUR PARENT’S!!!!!!!!!!

  • eydaimon 08/10/2009 12:56am
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    + -1

    “Contitutional rights may not be infringed simply because the majority of the people choose that they be.”
    — Supreme Court of the United States
    Source: Westbrook v. Mihaly 2 Cal. 3d 756

    The federal government was never granted the power to handle health care. Public opinion or not!

  • Anonymous 08/10/2009 8:01am

    From what I understand of the Senate Finance committee’s version, the public option would be scrapped and replaced by an initially-government funded non-for-profit insurer to provide competition. This non-profit could lower the price through competition without requiring constant govt funding.

  • Comm_reply
    donnyshaw 08/10/2009 8:32am

    It could, but the general feeling seems to be that it would be too weak to actually bring down costs. The Finance Committee bill isn’t out yet. When it’s released we’ll be able to get a better sense of how well it might work through CBO scores and the like.

  • Anonymous 08/11/2009 6:26pm

    If there is no public option, there is no point in the health plan. Any national health plan should be designed to benefit the American citizen, not the business interests of Big Insurance. We do need profitable Big Pharma and Big Medicine but the health insurance industry is simply a leach that make profits without providing any entrepreneurial efforts to benefit consumers. The whole point of insurance is to pool funds from many people and pay out to the relative few who need to make claims. The only requirement is safety of the funds and there is no greater safety that U.S. Government funds backing national insurance. Private health insurance companies simply duplicate each other with multiple bureaucracies and procedures. None of them can approach the clout of a public plan in negotiating prices with the drug companies or medical providers.

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