Lieberman Warms to Health Care Bill

Posted December 15, 2009 at 1:02pm

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) said Tuesday that he is inching toward supporting the Senate health care reform bill, now that it appears his objections have successfully killed two key liberal priorities in the bill.Lieberman has threatened to filibuster the measure if either a public insurance option or a provision to expand Medicare are included.“If, as appears to be happening, the so-called public option government run insurance program is out and the Medicare buy-in — which I thought would jeopardize Medicare, cost taxpayers billions of dollars over the long haul, increase our deficit — is out, and there are no other attempts to bring things like that in, then … I’m getting to that position where I can say what I’ve wanted to say all along, that I’m ready to vote for health care reform,— Lieberman said in comments to reporters that were aired on MSNBC.However, Lieberman said he would still withhold judgment until he sees the actual legislative language of the proposal that is intended to replace the measure’s public option.“I think we’re heading in the right direction,— Lieberman said.Lieberman inflamed liberals on Sunday when he appeared to reverse himself on the Medicare provision, which was intended as a compromise that both liberals and centrists could support. One Senate Democratic leadership aide said Lieberman told Reid more than a week ago that he was open to allowing seniors aged 55 to 64 to buy into the Medicare program. What’s more, Lieberman supported Medicare buy-in proposals when he ran for president in 2004 and when he ran for vice president in 2000.As recently as Sept. 9 in a Connecticut Post interview, Lieberman explained his opposition to the public option by saying he has supported Medicare and Medicaid expansion in the past.Tuesday, however, Lieberman’s office released a statement that sought to clarify that Lieberman no longer supports those options, given the current fiscal state of the country and provisions in the underlying Senate health care reform bill that would subsidize many seniors who do not yet qualify for Medicare.“There has been some misunderstanding about my past position on the Medicare buy-in proposal, which I would like to clarify,— Lieberman said in the statement. “The Medicare buy-in proposal was part of the Gore/Lieberman platform in 2000, but in 2000 our nation’s budget was balanced, debt levels were less than half current levels, Medicare was not on the verge of insolvency, and there was no viable proposal like the one we are debating today to provide affordable coverage to more than 30 million Americans who currently lack health insurance, including people 55 to 65.—Lieberman continued, “My comments reported by the Connecticut Post in September were related to past ideas for health care reform I have considered or supported, and were made before we had a bill for consideration on the Senate floor that contains extensive health insurance reforms, including limiting how much more insurance companies could charge individuals based on age and providing subsidies that would specifically help people between the ages of 55 and 65 to afford health insurance.—