HELP Democrats Hold Firm on Public Option for Health Care
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Democrats on Tuesday signaled that their health care reform bill would protect liberal priorities — particularly the government-run, public insurance option opposed by most Republicans and some centrist Democrats.
In a Tuesday afternoon news conference, the panel’s leading Democrats pledged that their legislation would overhaul the health care system to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable, quality care. Their bill is expected to be marked up by the HELP panel on Wednesday.
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who is running the committee in the absence of Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), brushed aside criticism that the bill costs too much — the Congressional Budget Office scored portions of the bill at more than $1 trillion — by saying the cost of doing nothing is even greater.
“There are apparently those who think the status quo is fine,— Dodd said. “We don’t.—
Dodd also said that creating a strong public plan option would help keep private insurance costs in check and reduce costs overall.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who is helping Dodd with the committee’s extra workload while Kennedy is away from the Senate battling brain cancer, sounded a similar theme.
“You need a government on your side,— she said. “The cost of doing nothing is far more expensive than the cost proposed in this bill.—
The HELP Committee bill will eventually be merged with a similar bill to be written by the Finance Committee. Senators are hoping to advance a bill through the chamber before the August recess.