The First Draft: Public option, Afghan policy under scrutiny
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee face off Tuesday over whether an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system should include an optional government-run health insurance plan.
The panel, which is debating changes to Chairman Max Baucus’s healthcare reform bill, is dealing with amendments about the public option Tuesday.
Most Republicans strongly oppose a government-run plan, fearing it will have an unfair competitive advantage that will drive private insurers out of the marketplace.
Baucus, seeking to craft a bill that could win bipartisan support, left the public option out of his healthcare bill. Instead, he proposed creating private healthcare cooperatives as an means of ensuring competition with insurance companies.
Groups on both sides have been airing advertisements, targeting Baucus, insurance companies and others.
A tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation Tuesday found that public support for health reform rose in September after declining during the summer. The poll found 57 percent believe reform is more important than ever.
It found 59 percent favored a public option.
A public option would directly affect only a small portion of the population. Most Americans would continue to get their health insurance through their employers.
Those who don’t have insurance through their employer would be entitled to purchase insurance through a government-run exchange that would offer private insurance polices and, possibly, either a public or cooperative option.
Other healthcare reform bills passed out of congressional committees have included a public option. Baucus’s bill is the last one still in committee, much delayed by efforts to craft the sort of bipartisan measure Obama supports.
Obama says healthcare is his top domestic priority. He’ll be keeping an eye on it from the White House Tuesday, but the main issue on his agenda for the day is Afghanistan.
Obama is due to meet NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and U.S. officials throughout the day as he considers a proposed strategy shift that could require the deployment of thousands more troops to Afghanistan.
Photo credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas (Baucus talks to reporters Sept. 15)