If ‘Public Option’ Stands, Senators Say They'll Block A Vote on Health Care Bill

By Penny Starr | December 4, 2009 | 6:33 PM EST

At a press conference on Friday at the Capitol Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) said they were sponsoring a 'tri-partisan' amendment to the Senate health care legislation, but Collins and Lieberman said they would not vote for a bill that included a government-run health insurance program. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) repeated their opposition to a “public option” in a final Senate health care bill when CNSNews.com asked if there were any circumstances in which they would vote for cloture on the bill if it includes a government-run insurance program. (Cloture means debate on a bill must end and the legislation is voted upon.)
“I cannot see one for this reason,” Lieberman said. “This is a good bill in many ways, and it achieves what I have always believed – for the years I’ve been working for health care reform – are the main purposes for health care reform: to begin to contain and control the never-ending increases of the cost of health care; to extend coverage by enabling millions of people who can’t afford health insurance to have health insurance; and to regulate the insurance companies so they treat consumers better.”
However, “to me, the public option, so-called, which is really a government-created and government-run insurance company, doesn’t support any of those purposes,” Lieberman said.

“But what it does do is to put the federal government once more in a position of having to pay any debts that it has, that a public option insurance company runs, and so that means the taxpayers will pay. And that means our debt, which also is dangerously high, will get higher,” he added.

Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)

“The public option insurance company won’t help a single poor person get insurance,” Lieberman said. “It won’t force a single insurance company to give insurance to people who are sick. And it won’t even contain cost, as the CBO is telling us now. The public option government insurance company will actually end up charging more than private insurers on these exchanges.”
Collins said she agreed with Lieberman and cited the failure of the government- run health insurance program in her home state of Maine.
“I do not support and think it is unwise policy to create a government-owned, government-run insurance company,” Collins said. “And it is not necessary to achieve the objective of broader coverage, lower cost, and higher quality health care system.”
Collins said the Maine program was extremely costly and only provides health care coverage for 10,000 of the 150,000 low-income people in the state who are uninsured.
“It didn’t work,” Collins said.
Collins and Lieberman spoke at a press conference on Friday at the U.S. Capitol where they and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) introduced an amendment to the more than 2,000- page health care bill crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democrats.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said a government run health care program in her state was a failure. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

The five-point amendment deals with the processing of claims and payments; streamlining and eliminating waste in Medicare and Medicaid; protecting patients from hospital-borne infections; and developing a Web site for consumers that would rate physicians and their services.
Lieberman said passing health care reform would require “political compromise.”
“I think the best political compromise is to get the public option out of there,” he said.
Lieberman also said the fact that government-run health insurance is in the bill reflects a political appeasement for those who want a government-run health care system.
“I think it was originally put in there as a kind of accommodation to people who really want a single-payer, government-controlled insurance company and government-controlled health care system,” Lieberman said. “They have the right to believe that, [and] want that.”
However, “I think it would be wrong and terrible for our country,” Lieberman said. “I think it would result in worse health care, more expensive health care, and certainly an enormously greater national debt.”
He then challenged those who favor a single-payer health care system to step up to the plate.
“If they want that, let’s come out and have a debate on a single-payer system,” Lieberman said. “Don’t try to get it put in the door in a way that does nothing good and opens us up to risk.
“I feel very strongly about this,” he said.
Collins said she does not see compromise as on option when it comes to supporting a government-run insurance plan.
“This is a philosophical difference, and it is not easily compromised,” she said. “It’s not like a funding dispute where you can split the difference.”