Chuck Schumer on Face the Nation appeared to issue some of the strongest language yet on whether there will be a public option in the final version of the health care bill, but he gave himself some wiggle room. Just what does "some form of it" mean? Either there is a public option, or there isn't.
At least Schumer spoke out very well about what a bad idea waiting for things to get even worse and using a "trigger" before offering a public option would be. Everyone in America deserves access to affordable health care coverage now, not after the insurance companies have had a couple more years to rake us over the coals and line their CEO's pockets.
Here's what Chuck said that was stronger and somewhat more hopeful than normal.
Shumer: There will be a public option in the final bill, some form of it. And hopefully Chuck Grassley and I and others can come to an agreement on how that should work. We want it to be a fair, level playing field, but you need something the big boys honest. And the only thing that really is out there is a public option.
We don’t trust the private insurance companies left to their own devices and neither do the American people. Seventy percent of the American people support a public option.
The recent polling telling Congress that America wants the government to step into health care reform and offer a public plan cannot be minimized. We are going to hold you to it. We'll be running our Blue America ads shortly. I'll be writing a post to let you know by tomorrow.
Christy Hardin Smith writes: Health Care: We’re Gonna Hold You To That Guarantee, Sen. Schumer
We're going to hold you to that guarantee, Chuck. No idea when you became the Great and Powerful Oz on health care on the Hill.
But now that you've made this public guarantee? We expect you and everyone else in the House and Senate to deliver on it. And we'll be watching you closely to be certain that you do.
Yes We Will! That's my new slogan and I hope Congress is listening.
Transcript via CBS:
SCHUMER: Well, we’re making every effort to reach common ground. But let me just say this. We need somebody to keep the public -- the private insurance companies honest. They are terribly concentrated. In Chuck Grassley’s own state, 71 percent by one company.
In 94 percent of the markets, according to the Justice Department, health insurance is highly concentrated. So without a public option, you’re going to have no competition. And the public is going to be forced -- you know, they don’t like the insurance companies simply raising prices and raising prices and cutting back on coverage and cutting back on coverage.
I am not saying that the public option should be the only option. There are some who do say that, particularly in my party. But we shouldn’t say there should be no public option. We should have this insurance exchange and let both sides compete. And let’s see which one does better.
Each one claims to have advantages. I think both will exist in the market. A public option may be better for some. A private insurance company may be better for others. No one is going to force anyone who has private insurance to give it up. The president has promised that over and over again. And we can come to a middle ground.
Already, John, the House has proposed its plan, has a strong public option. The HELP Committee, the other committee in the Senate doing this, has proposed a strong public option. The Finance Committee, we’re trying to come to some compromise but make no mistake about it, the president is for this strongly.
There will be a public option in the final bill, some form of it. And hopefully Chuck Grassley and I and others can come to an agreement on how that should work. We want it to be a fair, level playing field, but you need something the big boys honest. And the only thing that really is out there is a public option.
We don’t trust the private insurance companies left to their own devices and neither do the American people. Seventy percent of the American people support a public option. So do 50 percent of...
DICKERSON: Let me interrupt you just there, Senator Schumer. I’m sorry. Let me just ask, there has been a lot of sort of vague talk about public options, but you’ve been at work here -- and I’ll throw this question to Senator Grassley.
Senator Grassley, you have said you’re interested or intrigued at least with the notion of patient-owned cooperatives. So you’ve been in discussions with Chuck Schumer and other senators about trying to forge a compromise. Are we anywhere towards an actual compromise or is there over, broken down, and we’re moving on?
GRASSLEY: If it is in the area of what we have known cooperatives in America -- and there’s even a few insurance cooperatives already operating in America, if they’re within what we have known of cooperatives and the concept of cooperation for the last 150 years, I think we can reach a favorable compromise, and then enhance competition and enhance it in the private sector.
And then we don’t have to worry about what Senator Schumer was talking about, having the government enhance competition and teach insurance companies to be honest, because quite frankly, the government is not a fair competitor in anything, and they get us into more trouble, as you find out with Fannie Mae and housing, as just an example.
And then the other thing, if you want to keep people honest, you know, if there’s collusion within the insurance industry, we can put people in prison for collusion.
DICKERSON: Senator Schumer, let me ask you a question. Step back here for a moment, if I may, about just a question of timing here. We’re still circling around the public plan here. You have 25 days to meet the president’s deadline. He wants something by the August recess. Why so fast?
SCHUMER: Well, look, I think it is very important to get this done. And the president has pushed us and pushed us. Now, we’ve been working on this for two or three months already. We’re coming close.
There are a whole lot of areas where Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus , Chairman Baucus and I agree, such as an insurance exchange, such as an emphasis on prevention and information technology, such as some real tough regulation on the insurance companies and delivery.
So, on a whole lot of this, we have agreement. There are three areas we don’t: how to pay for it, public option, and employer mandate.
And we’re working very hard to come to an agreement. Look, I’ve said to Chuck Grassley and to Kent Conrad and Chairman Baucus, if -- I don’t care what you call it. But whatever we have that has to compete against the private insurance companies -- and of course, I prefer a public option, but these are the minimum requirements.
First it has to be available, on the first day, to everybody. Second, it has to be -- so there shouldn’t be a trigger, two years later, maybe we’ll have one.
Second, it has to be national. You know, I know there are co-ops in Iowa. There are even co-ops in New York. I live in one. I live in an apartment building that’s a co-op, so I’m a co-operator.
But to just have one little co-op, say, Ogdensburg, New York, and say New York is covered, when 99 percent of the people have nothing, that’s no good. Third, it has to be transparent.
In other words, we want to know -- the public option, the advantage is, when it makes a deal with the drug companies or big hospital association, we’ll know what it says and it will keep the insurance companies honest.
They don’t make their deals public. And since there’s no competition, they jack up prices. And it has to have the clout to go against the big boys. Now if we could get those four things, we could do it.
But it’s a...
It’s a road to go.