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The Senate Health Care Bill and the Public Option

December 10, 2009

On Tuesday, about 10 members participated in one of the numerous “Cost of Delay” vigils organized across the country. The main focus of those at the rally in downtown Grand Rapids was to send a message to Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin to support the “public option” in the Senate version of the health care reform bill, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Everyone GRIID spoke with was in favor of a public option, even if it was a weak option. Sean Kenney felt that even though it was a weak option that it might be the beginning of more progressive reforms.

Robert DeMaagd also felt that if the weak public option version of the Senate bill passed that it would be a first step to what he would rather see, a Single-Payer health system. However, DeMaagd expressed concern that the Senate version did not include the anti-abortion position that the House bill adopted. He said, “If the Senate version of the bill did not include a woman’s right to choose then it shouldn’t be called Health Care Reform.”

Yesterday it was announced that the Senate did reach an agreement, but that agreement did not include a public option. According to Washington correspondent for the Nation, John Nichols, the Senate has a tentative agreement, which does not include a public option. Instead, the federal Office of Personnel Management would hire the insurance companies to run the health plans.

The defeat of a public option should come as no surprise considering that the corporate health sectors had spent $400 million to lobby Congress and that amount doesn’t include the last quarter of the year.

Groups like MoveOn are blaming Republicans and a few conservative Democrats, but as independent reporter James Ridgeway points out, the plan that the Senate will likely adopt is more a result of compromises within the Democratic Party.

The Senate is not expected to vote on this bill until the Congressional Budget office analyzes the costs.

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