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A Bipartisan Healthcare Bill in Both Chambers?

August 28, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

It’s sounding likely. The Democrats think they have a Republican in the Senate they can work with to vote “yes” on healthcare reform. No surprises here – it’s Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME]. The New York Times reports:

Ms. Snowe says she wants the public to understand that there is a serious problem, that the health care system is in crisis and that even people who are happy with their current coverage will not stay content for long, given rapidly rising costs and steadily shrinking benefits.

“They may say they are satisfied now,” the senator said in an interview, “but it is going to get worse, given the skyrocketing increases that are only going to persist. Something needs to be done to remove the deep anxiety that people find themselves in because of the lack of health insurance.”

As for the details, Ms. Snowe has been the rare Republican willing to show any interest in a public health insurance plan as an option, though she favors a trigger to institute such a government-operated program only if private health insurers do not make coverage more affordable.

She said Maine’s experience with insurance exchanges to create more flexibility for consumers had persuaded her that for less-populated states, the exchanges had to extend beyond state borders. She also thinks the idea of a reinsurance program to have the federal government absorb the risks of some catastrophic health care costs in an effort to lower private premiums is worth exploring.

Senator Snowe votes with her party only 58 percent of the time. In the past couple years she’s crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats on stem cells, children’s health insurance, cap-and-trade, the stimulus, tobacco regulation, The Edward Kennedy Serve America Act, and much more. You can view her complete voting history here.

There is also at least one Republican in the House that is looking like a likely “yes” vote on health care. Freshman Rep. Anh Cao [R, LA-2] said on August 15th that he is “leaning” towards voting for the bill as long as it is explicit that no federal money originating in it could be used to fund abortions.

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