Obama Pushes Health Care Reform in Rare Capitol Hill Sunday Trip

"My concern is you can't let the public option be something of a health care ghetto," Wyden said. "Right now, it looks like the folks that are going to be getting into it are people that haven't had insurance. The evidence shows that those are folks who didn't get check-ups, didn't get prevention, didn't get chronic care or maintenance."

Some Democrats are on the opposite side of the spectrum and want to nix the option altogether.

Reid is walking a fine line with the public option. He has attempted to appease all sides by offering a public option plan in an insurance exchange, yet it would be one that's only open to the uninsured and which states would be able to opt out of.

But he could lose votes of his own party members and that of the lone Republican who sided with the Democrats, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who has repeatedly said she does not want to see a public option in the final bill.

The House bill, passed in early November, offers a public option, although the Congressional Budget Office forecasted that premiums for it would be more expensive than for policies sold by private firms.

"This is a philosophical difference so it is not easily compromised," Collins, a moderate Republican, told reporters Friday.

Still, Feingold says Democrats are getting closer to a compromise.

"I am cautiously optimistic that we're going to be able to pull everybody together," he said.


Abortion continues as a hot topic as Nelson prepares to offer an amendment on Monday with strict abortion restrictions, similar to the Stupak amendment that passed in the House health care bill. The language in the Reid bill restricts the use of public funds for abortion services but Nelson wants to take the restrictions beyond that.

Despite the liberal outrage about his abortion proposals, the moderate Democrat has threatened to reject the final bill if it is not included, putting an all-important 60-vote count in jeopardy.

"At the end of the day, we need Senator Nelson's vote," Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said Friday. "We still don't have a promise of a vote from the Republican side, so we would need his vote."

The House bill includes an amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., that would not only cut federal funding for abortion-related services, but limit access to abortions for people who would receive federal subsidies and would have to buy insurance through a health insurance exchange.

Medicare Costs

One of the ways to pay for the Senate legislation, which would cost $849 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, would be through cuts in Medicare, as well as cost savings.

Democrats defeated Thursday a proposal by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to shelve the legislation until lawmakers find a way to fund it other than by cuts in Medicare. But lawmakers unanimously approved a proposal by Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., that the bill cannot restrict current Medicare benefits in the future, while at the same time leaving $460 billion in Medicare cost savings.

Republicans assailed the measure, calling it a sham.

"Seniors do not want senators fooling with Medicare," McConnell of Kentucky said. "They want us to fix it, to strengthen it, to preserve it for future generations, not raid it like a giant piggy bank in order to create some entirely new government program. Yesterday's vote was particularly distressing for the nearly 11 million seniors on Medicare Advantage."

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...