Senators on public health plan | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Senators on public health plan

Posted By on Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 4:53 PM

Will Arkansas's senators approve a health care plan that includes a public option?

Paul Barton reports from Washington that they both are still dodging a categorical answer.

By Paul Barton

WASHINGTON -  There’s been a lot of chatter on liberal-leaning Web sites recently that Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor are going to oppose the liberals' most cherished of health care goals: some sort of public option for the 47 million Americans without insurance of any kind.


In Lincoln’s case, the skepticism is based on campaign contributions she has  received from health insurance industry, which is decidedly cool to competition from government-managed plans. Over the past 20 years she has received $181,899 from health insurance companies, a total that is 19th highest in the chamber, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Some of that reflects her two terms in the House from January 1993 to January 1997.


For her 2010 campaign for a third Senate term, she has received  $14,500 so far, the second highest of any senator up for re-election next year.


Pryor’s health insurance numbers are more modest, just $20,150 for his 2008 campaign that won him a second term and $31,311 for his 2002 and 2008 campaigns added together.


In her weekly teleconference with Arkansas reporters, Lincoln denied that she is ruling out a public or government-run health plan to help the uninsured. But she did express some caution.


“My concerns that I’ve expressed is that it’s got to be one that works on a level playing field,” she said. If all Congress comes up with is a government-backed plan, she said, “then there will be very little incentive for the private industry to be able to be competitive perhaps in the plans they will be offering and the individuals they will be offering.”


She said the Senate Finance Committee, on which she sits, is considering a number of options, including the possibility of health co-ops that would be federally chartered and get an initial – but not ongoing – amount of federal funds.


“We’re just looking at all the different possibilities making sure that there is going to be something for everybody,” Lincoln said, adding that a Senate-passed bill by August will be hard but doable. August is the Obama administration’s target for a Senate bill.


Also, she emphasized, “We want this bill to be paid for.”


When asked if taxing workers’ employer-provided plans was an option for paying for it, she said, “I’m not going to support anything that is going to increase taxes on working families and we don’t have to.”


Pryor’s office meanwhile put out the following statement to the Arkansas Times in regard to a public or government-backed plan: “Senator Pryor supports every American being able to keep the coverage they have now or being able to choose a plan that best meets their needs.  A public option plan is something that is still on the table and something he could support, but it should be designed in a way that increases and does not eliminate competition.”


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