The Senate Finance Committee voted to defeat an amendment that would have added a public option to the Max Baucus plan for a health-care system overhaul, 15-8, in a vote that split Democrats and unified Republicans. It presents a victory for Baucus but a setback for the Obama administration, which insisted on getting a public option in a speech to Congress three weeks ago:
Liberal Democrats failed Tuesday to inject a government-run insurance option into sweeping health care legislation taking shape in the Senate Finance Committee, despite widespread accusations that private insurers routinely deny coverage in pursuit of higher profits.
The 15-8 rejection marked a victory for Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the committee chairman, who is hoping to push his middle-of-the-road measure through the panel by week’s end. It also kept alive the possibility that at least one Republican may yet swing behind the overhaul, a key goal of both Baucus and the White House.
“My job is to put together a bill that gets to 60 votes” in the full Senate, the Montana Democrat said shortly before he joined a majority on the committee in opposing the provision. “No one shows me how to get to 60 votes with a public option,” the term used to describe a new government role in health care. It takes 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to overcome delaying actions that Republicans may attempt.
Undeterred, supporters of a new role for government in U.S. health coverage immediately launched a new attempt to prevail.
Jay Rockefeller attempted to prevail on the vote by calling the insurance industry “rapacious,” immediately after saying that he “hate[d] to use the term.” Perhaps Rockefeller might want to check the dictionary for its definition. The word means “ravenous,” excessively grasping or covetous,” and “living on prey” — a strange definition of an industry that makes a meager 3.3% average profit margin. In contrast, the legal profession averages about 14.3% profit margin, and yet the Democrats seem completely unwilling to tackle tort reform, even as part of a health-care system overhaul.
This won’t be the last attempt to attach a public option to the bill, but the rest will probably have as much success. It’s far more likely to get added into a conference report when both chambers pass their versions of ObamaCare, and it’s just as likely that Rockefeller and Chuck Schumer offered this as a distraction from that effort.