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Calif. Dem reintroduces public option for health insurance

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Even as Republicans gear up for a vote to repeal health care reform, one progressive House member is making a renewed push for the public option.

On Wednesday, the first day of the 112th Congress, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) introduced a measure to establish a robust public health insurance option as a supplement to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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The California congresswoman argued that the plan, which pays physicians 5 percent more than Medicare rates, would lower insurance costs and address deficit concerns, pointing to a Congressional Budget Office report saying it would cut the deficit by $68 billion.

“This is the perfect moment for the public option,” Woolsey said. “It builds on the health care reform legislation by lowering costs and it provides a great way to bring down the deficit.”

She added: “If Republicans really care about the deficit, they should sign on to this bill rather than try to dismantle the health care reform law, which would add billions to the budget deficit.”

A copy of the 17-page bill, called the “Public Option Deficit Reduction Act,” was provided to Raw Story [.pdf].

While the provision — controversial in Congress but popular among the public — is all but guaranteed not to pass the Republican-controlled House, it serves to illustrate flaws in GOP’s budget-related arguments regarding repeal of the health care law.

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Republicans have argued that the health reform law would explode the deficit, but the CBO has said it would do the opposite. The nonpartisan scorekeeper has also said repealing the measure would add $143 billion to the deficit.

After his party rode a wave of anti-health reform campaigns to retake the House, the new Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor dismissed CBO projections, suggesting that the budgeting office skewed its projections to serve the political interests of Democrats.

“I think most people understand that the CBO did the job it was asked to do by the then-Democrat majority, and it was really comparing apples to oranges,” Mr. Cantor said. “It talked about 10 years worth of tax hikes and six years worth of benefits. Everyone knows beyond the 10-year window, this bill has the potential to bankrupt this federal government as well as the states. So that speaks to the budget implications of that.”

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Woolsey has championed the public option — which would offer consumers a choice between private plans and a government-run plan — since it was under consideration in the sweeping health care law. After it was removed and the rest of the bill was enacted, she led efforts to reintroduce it as a standalone measure.


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