Negotiated rate healthcare bill to be presented to House Dems
Jared Allen and Mike Soraghan
Oct 28, 2009
House Democratic leaders are set to unveil their long-awaited healthcare bill to their members Thursday morning — legislation that more than likely will contain a public option divorced from current Medicare rates.
Leading Democrats haven’t said for sure, but are further indicating that they have decided to go with the public option that will allow doctors and hospitals to negotiate their repayment rates, as it’s becoming clearer that they simply lack the votes for the “robust” public option.
Leadership aides said no formal decision will be made before a leadership meeting Wednesday afternoon, but the office of Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) has acknowledged that the liberal version does not have the votes to pass, and an internal whip list that was leaked on Tuesday night put the tally of robust public option "no" votes at 47, nine more than Democrats can afford to lose.
“That’s what it’s looking like,” Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) said before Wednesday's leadership meeting when asked if the bill will have the negotiated-rates public option.
“I think everyone knows that we have to learn how to count," Becerra said. "And so it’s one of those things where members have to come to the point at believing that this is the package that gets us to 218.”
Becerra also said it’s looking like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will show members the final bill on Thursday morning.
Backers of the robust public option are already playing defense, though, suggesting they may already know — or may have already been told — that a robust public option won’t be included in the bill.
“We consider this not even the fourth quarter,” Progressive Caucus Co-Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday.
Asked if Progressives would be prepared to balk at supporting a public option with negotiated rates — a threat they made in writing at the beginning of August — Woolsey said: “When we see what the bill says, we’ll decide if we can support it.”
Woolsey added that while Progressives don’t intend to sign off on just anything that’s handed to them, “this isn’t walk-away time."
Becerra said he and other leaders have confidence they have found a formula to get them to 218 Democratic votes, the minimum number needed for the bill to pass, assuming that all 177 House Republicans vote no.
“There will be a good public option in the bill,” said Becerra, who, like Pelosi, had been a fervent supporter of a public option based on Medicare rates. “My sense is that we’re going to be crystallizing around a package that will get us to 218.”