Specter Appears to Give Public Health Option Second Look

Posted May 11, 2009 at 3:54pm

Recent party-switcher Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) may be giving new life to one of the most controversial aspects of comprehensive health care reform.

Specter had previously stated his opposition to a “public option,— which would allow consumers a government-run insurance plan in addition to private options. But in a letter Friday to Health Care for America Now, he appeared to reconsider his position. President Barack Obama, along with most Democrats, supports the public plan.

“I look forward to discussing and considering this issue,— Specter said, calling Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) public option proposal announced last week “a starting point— for discussion.

“There may well be other proposals on this issue which should be considered in drafting legislation and debating the bill on the Senate floor,— added Specter, who recently bolted to the Democratic Party after spending 28 years in the Senate as a Republican.

Specter also voiced skepticism about any health care plan that would allow the government to purchase prescription drugs at a discounted price — another sticking point for Republicans and moderate Democrats.

The Pennsylvania Senator pointed to a 2007 letter from then-Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag, who now leads the Office of Management and Budget, that warned that such a plan “would have a negligible effect on saving money.—

But Specter noted that “there may be other proposals on this issue— for consideration.

The Senate Finance Committee meets Tuesday for its third roundtable discussion on comprehensive health care reform. Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has said his panel will mark up a bill next month, with a goal for full Senate consideration later this summer.