Democrats Go Head-to-Head on Healthcare Reform

Healthcare reform is putting Democrats at loggerheads with each other, as the party’s liberal wing failed to include a public option in legislation now being negotiated in the Senate Finance Committee. The two failed votes (which saw some Democrats cross the aisle to vote with Republicans) were a victory for Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), whose committee is trying to finalize the proposed legislation.  At the same time, Democrats in the House of Representatives were looking at ways to trim approximately $900 billion over 10 years from their legislation, President Obama’s suggested price tag.bilde

Baucus and four other Democrats voted against Senator Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) amendment to include a public option in the proposed bill.  “The public option would help to hold insurance companies’ feet to the fire, I don’t think there’s much doubt about that, but my first job is to get this bill across the finish line,” Baucus said.  “No one shows me how to get 60 votes with a public option.”

The second failed amendment was a proposal from Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), designed to increase competition into the insurance market.  This amendment would have let the government negotiate payments with physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers for two years rather than pay them at Medicare rates.

Advocates of the public option believe that private insurers are placing profits before coverage and vowed to insert this amendment into the legislation once the full Senate votes on healthcare reform.  “With some work and some compromise, we can get the 60 votes on the floor of the Senate that will make our system better by providing for a strong, fair and viable public option,” Schumer said.

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