Lieberman Not Ready to Back Compromise

Posted December 9, 2009 at 12:39pm

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), whose vote is considered crucial to passage of health care reform by Christmas, remains elusive even in the face of potential compromise on the public insurance option.

In a brief interview Wednesday morning, Lieberman cited several possible problems with the hybrid plan that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Tuesday evening was broadly agreed to by a group of 10 liberal and moderate Democrats. Lieberman, who caucuses with the majority and was loosely affiliated with that group of negotiators, has said he would filibuster the final health care bill if it includes a public insurance option of any kind

“The problem is, that I’ve heard about three or four different versions of it,— Lieberman said. “I’ve been very clear for months that I’m for health care reform. But I don’t want us, as part of it, to create what I consider to be an unnecessary and costly government-run insurance option. And that includes one that would be triggered.—

“It sounded last night from the proposals being discussed that they met that test — that the public option was basically gone,— Lieberman continued. “But then this morning the papers were saying it’s still in. So, I’ve got to wait and see.—

Democratic sources said there is some confusion even among the 10 Senate Democratic negotiators over whether the proposal they agreed to would include a “triggered— public option.

One source said it appears the last sticking point in the negotiations was whether to include a provision that would allow the government to create a public option if private insurers decline to participate in a government-sponsored exchange. The source said that it’s likely the group will send two trigger proposals to the Congressional Budget Office — one that would be a national public option and one that would be state-based.

The potential compromise includes an exchange that would allow insurers to compete for uninsured and small business customers, but it would prohibit private companies from making more than a minimal profit.

Lieberman described as “dead— the prospect of increasing eligibility to Medicaid. That proposal was sought after by liberals in the negotiating group.

On the possible proposal to increase access to Medicare by allowing individuals ages 55 to 64 to buy in to the program, Lieberman indicated it depends on how it is structured. “It’s an interesting idea, but a lot of questions have to be asked about it,— he said.

Lieberman suggested he was open to creating a national marketplace of health insurance plans similar to what is available to federal employees that would be administered by the Office of Personnel Management.