Finance Committee Adopts Cantwell State-Based Public Health Option Amendment

The Senate Finance Committee “added a quasi-public option to the healthcare reform bill Thursday,” The Hill reports.

Two days after Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and a few other Democrats joined Republicans to defeat amendments to create a national government-run public option health insurance program, the committee voted in favor of a proposal by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to enable states to form their own public options.

"This proposal is about giving federal dollars to the states and putting them in the driver’s seat," Cantwell said. "It is a public plan, but negotiated with the private sector."

All Democrats “except Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) voted to support the Cantwell amendment and all Republicans voted against it.”

More information:

Under the Cantwell amendment, people with incomes between 133 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level who do not get insurance at work would enroll in these state-based programs. The federal tax credits that would otherwise have been given to those individuals would instead be paid to states to finance the plan. Cantwell based her amendment on a program in Washington state.

States could choose to set up their plans, which would negotiate with medical providers on payment rates rather than base them on Medicare’s fees, as other public option plans would do. Cantwell and Baucus said the amendment would save money. "We are putting someone in charge, finally, of negotiating rates," Cantwell said.

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