And speaking of health care ... | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

And speaking of health care ...

Posted By on Wed, Aug 5, 2009 at 6:12 AM

U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, in an interview yesterday with Paul Barton, sounded committed to passage of a health plan that includes a public option for coverage.

By PAUL BARTON

WASHINGTON – Departing from the alleged fence-straddling that’s drawn the scorn of more liberal Democrats, Sen. Blanche Lincoln said Tuesday she is determined comprehensive health care reform pass this year and that it include some kind of public option or “fallback”  to guarantee competition for the insurance industry.


“There needs to be a competitive alternative, and there needs to be a fallback and something that will hopefully keep the insurance industry honest,” she said in a late-afternoon interview with the Arkansas Times.

A centrist Democrat, the 48-year-old Lincoln has come under a fusillade of criticism this summer from those on the left who say she has not supported the president’s health care goals strongly enough and has possibly been influenced by significant financial contributions she has received from the “health care-industrial complex” since her last campaign in 2004.

According to Federal Election Commission figures broken down by the Center on Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group, she has already received $862,404 from insurers, health maintenance organizations, health professionals, hospitals, nursing homes and pharmaceutical and health product companies. The figure also includes money donated to her personal political action committee.

Lincoln took the opportunity Tuesday to blast those Republicans and conservatives who have talked openly about wanting to stop President Obama from his goal of achieving some type of health care “public option” and universal coverage, marking  him with a substantial policy defeat in his first year in office.

Of Republicans and conservatives who have said they want Obama “to fail” or that health care be his “Waterloo,” Lincoln said such attitudes were “un-American” and “just crazy.”

She added, “Why wouldn’t you want someone to succeed on behalf of all Americans for that?”

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, she sits on likely one of the one or two most important congressional panels that will shape the issue. Despite the hopes of many advocacy groups and the administration, she said the committee will not finish work on the bill before adjourning for its August recess on Friday.

Lincoln discussed the situation after another harried day on Capitol Hill that included an hour and a half luncheon with Obama at the White House.

Lincoln said the president, who had hoped to have bills passed by both chambers of Congress by August, was not irritated at them but instead was “very positive about wanting to get a bipartisan agreement” and that it was important “to take the time to get it right.”

The senator added:  “Without a doubt people are committed to coming back in September and working hard to come up with something that will pass in a reasonable amount of time. At some point we have to do something.”

When asked if she thought something would pass this year, Lincoln said, “I do.”

But Lincoln would not go so far as to say she’d support passing health care under a process called “reconciliation,” which gives the Democrats, as controlling party in the Senate,  a procedural right to shut off debate and forestall any GOP filibuster attempts.

“I really have big concerns about doing it through reconciliation,” she said.

Lincoln said to pass health care reform under reconciliation rules would limit some of the available health care policy options, including a long-sought rule prohibition against discriminating among patients due to pre-existing conditions.

“You wouldn’t get half a loaf; you would probably only get a third of a loaf,” she said. “It would basically be a Medicare reform bill is all it would be.”

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