Is the Public Option Dead?

Crossposted at

I was sitting in my doctor’s office at UCLA when I got news the Senate Finance Committee shot down two public health insurance options.

Five Democrats joined with all the Republicans on the committee to reject an amendment by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) in a 15-8 vote.
Three Democrats then joined the Republicans to defeat a second public-option proposal. By a vote of 13-10, the committee rejected an amendment by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Schumer, however, said the debate is far from over. He acknowledged during the debate that the public option doesn’t yet have the 60 votes on the Senate floor it needs to overcome a filibuster, but he emphasized to Huffington Post outside the hearing room: “Yet. I said ‘yet.'”

So if the public option doesn’t have the 60 votes why not 51? Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake explores the idea-

Chuck Schumer and Max Baucus just said that there were not 60 votes for the public option in the Senate.

The Public Option doesn’t need 60 votes. It needs 51. That is, unless the GOP filibusters it. What Baucus and Schumer are saying — explicitly — is that there are Democrats who would support a GOP filibuster to keep the public option from having an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. They are saying that there are Democrats who would vote with the GOP to block a vote on something that the President says he supports — a public option.

My physician, Dr. Daniel Cole of UCLA Medical Center, wasn’t happy with the news of the amendments failing. “They are just postponing the inevitable” he told me, shaking his head. He then explained to me how he voted for Obama but really wants him to be stronger on the public option.

My own doctor, MY OWN DOCTOR then sat there telling me how patients he sees can’t take these insurance hikes any longer. How people can’t pay their bills. How a public option NEEDS TO HAPPEN and WILL HAPPEN EVENTUALLY because there is just no other way.

As it turns out, public support for health care reform is up to 57%, and support for a public option at 65%.

So where does that leave us?

CNN reports:

In efforts to bridge differences, the Finance Committee proposal dropped the public insurance option and a mandate for all employers to provide health coverage. It would require individuals to have coverage or face a fine of up to $1,900 for a family of four but includes subsidies to help low- and middle-income Americans obtain health care plans.

The committee began debating the compromise measure last week, with arguments erupting over Democratic proposals to reduce subsidies for some Medicare coverage while eliminating fraud and waste in the government health care plan for senior citizens.

Republicans argued that the changes would reduce benefits for senior citizens, but Democrats say the overall effect would be minor. Some advocacy groups cite reports that the amount of money involved is no more than 5 percent of overall Medicare spending and therefore won’t adversely affect benefits for the elderly.

Another compromise being discussed? One by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe. Snowe has brought up a “trigger” mechanism that would create a public option in the future if specific thresholds and costs are not me. But the “trigger” has yet to be included in any proposal.

However the last, best gasp for any public option seems to be that magic 51 number. Will it or won’t it ever get to that? Who knows. Wonkette takes a stab

Well, it can: if the Dems can come together as 60 in a cloture vote, then the final floor vote on a public option would only need 50. Would you like to be one of the few Democrats standing on the floor, with the entire Republican caucus, to filibuster a health care bill from reaching an up-or-down vote on the Senate?

But of course the Democratic majority would never actually make the opposition go through with a real-life filibuster. Tacky!

Tacky, maybe. But my doctor and I will take tacky over NOTHING any day.

Contributing Editor Erin Kotecki Vest also blogs at Queen of Spain blog, where she’s really tired of sitting in doctor’s offices.

BlogHer is non-partisan, but our bloggers (like me!) aren’t! Read more of our coverage at News & Politics.


  1. Let’s try the public option on a segment, just like Obama suggested for TORT reform, and that segment can be Congress and all Federal employees. Why would you engage 100% of the population into a program that may not be able to support itself, just like Medicare. Seems Obama and Congress can cut 500 billion from Medicare without impacting care, so I suggest he cut 500 billion from Congress and the Federal employees health care……after all it won’t impact their care. I’m all for insuring the uninsured, but we could do that just by eliminating or greatly decreasing the excessive benefits we are giving Congress. Once they are willing to cut from their own benefits, then taxpayers will become believers. We could probably insure the uninsured just with the pay raise Congresss gave themselves!

  2. Please do not make healthcare compulsory if there is no public option. How can you fine someone for even $200 if that person is opting out of healthcare because he does not have the money to pay it? Remember right now people cannot even afford their mortgages. Although cell phones are relatively cheap compared to health insurance, some do not have a cell phone because they cannot afford it. Right now healthcare is more than $50 a month for those whose employers contribute. We all know that when there is a subsidy some people are always caught in the middle. They make too much to get a subsidy and yet they cannot afford the expense. Why are people fixed on health insurance coming from just the private sector? Right now insurance companies do not pay for anything that cost money. The government already provides health insurance for those who would need it the most – the old, the poor and children with certain mental health conditions. Why cannot the government extend that coverage to others who prefer a low cost premium even if it does not offer the luxury that private insurance is supposed to offer? Why should we ALL be forced to get private health insurance even when we just cannot afford it? Why don’t we “trust” the government when it comes to preventive things. Yet in times of crisis, we demand that the government solve the mess that the private sector refuses to touch. A case in point is that when Katrina occurred, home insurance etc failed people. By the way, when the government builds roads, schools and provides tax breaks for companies etc is that not a social service? What is the role of government? Thank you.

  3. Everyone must have health ins. to make it affordable for all. It will take a pool of healthy to offset the costs of those not so fortunate. There will be help for those who cannot pay. I just want a public plan. I hate insurance companies. I can pay, but I will be uninsurable if any significant illness ever happens. I know they will drop us like hot potatoes at the 1st chance. It is what they do. All to get the bottom line up to pay the CEO more. Simple, profit in health care is stupid. Health care is preventive, what we have does not do that at all.

  4. I have 2 friends who have chosen to buy new cars, instead of getting Health Insurance for themselves. I’m driving my old car, but I pay for my own Health insurance. I have no problem with the govt. assisting those who don’t have funds for Health Care. As a registered democrat, I don’t want to pay for someone who chooses to spend their money on a car rather than Health Care. I’m not into Health Insurance exec’s but I’m not sure they have taken as much from taxpayers as the wall street exec’s that were bailed out. There’s plenty of taxpayer money….but, it’s being spent foolishly.

  5. BUSTED! Government Healthcare Advocate Admits Public Option is Trojan Horse!

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