Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Will Progressive Senators Form Block to Demand Public Plan?

By: Jane Hamsher

Last week I heard from a reliable source that a group of progressive Senators will band together to demand that provisions for a public plan be included in any health care bill. Evidently they are tired of Evan Bayh and his corporatists controlling the terms of the debate, or that the opposition of Baucus and Grassley on the Finance Committee should determine the public plan's fate.

I spent the last week trying to confirm the story with no success. Although many offices would say that the decks are being cleared for health care, nobody would confirm that such a group existed, or what their intentions were.

That is, until this morning -- when I heard from a Senate staffer that in fact such meetings were taking place, though they couldn't confirm who was in the meetings or what the group's objectives were.

The New York Times says that "the serious negotiations are being conducted in a secretive process" and no doubt the situation is in flux. Health care lobbyists are discussing a compromise whereby a public plan would be created "only if certain conditions were met — if, for example, private insurers failed to rein in health costs by a certain amount after several years. Such a condition would serve as a strong incentive for insurers to ratchet down payments to doctors and hospitals."

The assumption was that since the Republicans were against everything and the Progressives were for anything, the insurance lobby would control the final bill through the "centrists." It would be great if progressive Senators did stick together and shake up that equation.

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