‘Top Line’ — Leading House Dem: Compromise Possible on Public Option

By Gorman Gorman

Sep 29, 2009 2:19pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: With the Senate Finance Committee today debating whether to include a "public option" as part of a health care reform package, a leading House Democrat today outlined a possible compromise that may make it easier to keep that avenue open in a final bill.

Rep. Rob Andrews, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, said on ABCNews.com's "Top Line" that House leaders may be open to sacrificing some of the savings that would be available through a public option to address concerns that such an entity would drive private insurers out of business.

"You could have a public option that has negotiated rates, instead of rates tied to Medicare," said Andrews, D-N.J. "The version of the public option that saves the Treasury and the taxpayers the most money ties the public option to Medicare rates. There's a less-savings version of it that would have negotiated rates — that might be one compromise."

The concept of tying rates to Medicare has drawn particular criticism in the Senate Finance Committee today, with the introduction of an amendment that would do just that by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

Also in the interview, Andrews reiterated his endorsement of the Senate's use of "reconciliation" to pass health care — a maneuver that would allow a bill to pass with a simple majority, rather than the filibuster-proof threshold of 60 votes.

"I think a much stronger plan for the country would come out with reconciliation," he said.

He also sounded more optimistic than House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in terms of a timeframe for final House action.

"There's substantial movement," he said. "I believe we'll take a bill to our caucus this week and start asking people to vote for it. And I think you'll see floor action in the House within the next few weeks."

Andrews, a members of the House Armed Services Committee, also reflected on President Obama's difficult choices ahead on Afghanistan: "I don't think that we can occupy a country that for 3,000 years has been unoccupiable. I think any strategy that assumes a long term American presence is doomed not to be a successful one."

Andrews had this to say about the reelection prospects of Gov. Jon Corzine, D-N.J.: "He's in some trouble because every incumbent governor is in trouble in this lousy economy. But he's gaining and I expect him to win."

Click HERE to see the interview with Rep. Rob Andrews.

We also checked in with GOP strategist Kevin Madden about the president's decision to travel to Denmark to lobby for his hometown of Chicago to be awarded the 2016 Olympics — a trip Madden's former boss, former Gov. Mitt Romney, has applauded.

"I think the American people will afford the president 24 hours to go over there and make his case for America and getting the Olympics — Chicago getting the Olympics," Madden said. "I think it's probably a mistake by anybody to read too much into it. to kind of hyper-analyze it and offer criticism that is just reflexive — you know, it's criticism for criticism's sake. So you know, I think there's a minimal risk but . . . they wouldn't go over there if they didn't think they could bring home the gold."

Watch more with Kevin Madden, on health care and Afghanistan, HERE.

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