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Democrats cede more on health bill, including Medicare buy-in

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Senate Democrats have ceded yet more crucial components of President Obama’s health reforms, dropping proposals for both a public option and Medicare buy-in, apparently caving to push-back from Republicans and centrist Democrats, according to a published report.

“The general consensus was that […] we shouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good and in order to get all the insurance reforms accomplished and a number of other good things in the bill,” Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) told reporters, according to Bloomberg News. Dropping the Medicare expansion “would be necessary to get the 60 votes,” he said.

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Asked whether Democrats had truly dropped both provisions, Senator Max Baucus (D-) said, “It’s looking like that’s the case,” according to Reuters.

Democrats had wanted to see Medicare expanded so that people aged 55 and over can buy in to the government-run plan, which currently covers senior citizens aged 65 or older. A public insurance option would have offered competition to high priced private insurers and allowed citizens to purchase low-cost policies through government markets.

“This bill, without public option, without Medicare buy-in, is a giant step forward toward transforming American health care,” said Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). “That’s reality, there is enough good stuff in that bill that we should move ahead with it.”

Senator Harkin had formerly been the public option’s greatest champion.

“Mark my word — I’m the chairman — it’s going to have a strong public option,” Harkin said at an Iowa fundraiser, adding that it would pass “by Christmas.” Harkin replaced Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) as chair of the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee.

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Even Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) appeared to back away from the key provisions, in spite of his threat to filibuster any bill that does not include a public option.

“”I know how difficult it has been to get this far. My colleagues may have forged a compromise bill that can achieve the 60 votes that will be needed for its passage but until this bill addresses cost, competition and accountability in a meaningful way, it will not win my vote,” he said, according to The Hill.

“I want to tell you, we could pass a health care reform bill this week with more than 60 votes and it would be bipartisan if we just took a few things out of the bill as it is today,” Lieberman told CBS’ Bob Schieffer during a Sunday broadcast.

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“Give me the list of things that have to be taken out to pass,” Schieffer prompted.

“From my point of view, no public option,” the senator replied. “No Medicare buy-in. Class act, which will add to our debt in the future, ah, it doesn’t take much more than that. You’d have a great bill left.”

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Lieberman’s threat to filibuster the health reform bill if it included a public option or Medicare buy-in sent ripples through the Democratic party, prompting centrist Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) to join him.

It bears pointing out that they are the only two non-Republican members of the upper chamber that have thus far opposed it — with their support, there would be 60 votes in favor of health reform.

With Democrats now agreeing to drop the public option and Medicare buy-in, it would seem Lieberman’s wishes have been granted.

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The Senate’s bill is designed to provide insurance coverage to nearly 31 million people and includes a mandate for all Americans to buy health insurance or face a civil penalty. “It would expand the Medicaid health program for the poor, set up online insurance-purchasing exchanges and provide subsidies for those who need help buying policies,” Bloomberg added.


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‘The president isn’t above the law’: Supreme Court expected to rule on two key Trump cases on Thursday

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Can Donald Trump refuse to hand over his financial records to Congress and New York prosecutors simply because he is president of the United States? The Supreme Court will rule Thursday on two related cases to answer this, with potentially widespread political implications.

The decision by the nine justices could lift the veil on Trump's finances ahead of the November 3 election.

Unlike all of his predecessors since Richard Nixon in the 1970s, New York real estate mogul Trump refused to release his tax returns, despite promising to do so during his 2016 White House campaign.

Trump made his fortune a key component of that campaign, and his lack of transparency raises questions about his true worth and possible conflicts of interest.

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Australia offers safe haven to Hong Kongers, sparking China fury

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Australia offered pathways to permanent residency for thousands of people from Hong Kong on Thursday in response to China's crackdown on dissent, drawing a furious reply from Beijing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was suspending its extradition agreement with the city and, in addition to extending the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers already in the country, threw open the door to thousands more wanting to start a new life Down Under.

Morrison said the decisions were taken in response to China's imposition last week of a tough new security law in Hong Kong, which he said "constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances" for the semi-autonomous territory.

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‘Glee’ star Naya Rivera missing, feared drowned

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"Glee" star Naya Rivera is missing and feared drowned at a California lake, local officials said, with rescuers to continue a search for her on Thursday.

The Ventura County Sheriff's office earlier tweeted it was looking for a "possible drowning victim" at the lake, and said a dive team was being deployed to the area.

Rivera, 33, is best known for her role as high school cheerleader Santana Lopez in "Glee", the TV series that she starred in for six seasons.

She rented a boat on Wednesday to take her four-year-old son onto Lake Piru, northwest of Los Angeles, local media cited the County Sheriff as saying.

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