Video: Health care vote to take place Tuesday

  1. Closed captioning of: Health care vote to take place Tuesday

    >> our seniors.

    >> joining us from capitol hill , finance committee member senator chuck schumer , putting forth his own proposal as to what to do with some of the penalties. very interesting one, for that matter. we'll get to that in a second, senator. thank you for joining us. walk us through how you will set your priorities in attempting to cultivate a compromise as we now move to the next phase and as you will represent, basically running point on those compromised efforts. what are your priorities?

    >> well, first of all, it was a very good report from cbo yesterday in two ways. the way that everybody knows is that $829 billion is the cost, lower than anybody thought. well below the president's goal of $900 billion. and it's going to do more to decrease the deficit than we thought. it will actually help us with the deficit in both the ten-year and 20-year window. but, second, it also said that the affordability waiver, which senator snowe and i authored, which said if you can't find nrps at 8% or lower percentage of your income, you don't have to buy it, didn't knock anyone off the roll. what is that showed was that insurance companies can offer lower-cost plans to people if they're required to. it will be a lot easier for the middle class to pay for it. one of my highest priorities. health care is so expensive that until we get the costs down it's unfair to ask someone making $60,000 to pay $7,200 a year, to force them to do that. so, we're doing two things. one, we're saying, okay, the insurance companies have to offer them a cheaper plan. and, secondly, we're saying if this penalty should not be very ownerest --

    >> failure to buy health insurance , you're referring to?

    >> correct. we're making it lower. instead of that money just going to the government goes into a little account for each citizen who pays it, and that will pay for health care insurance, if they buy it within three years. so it's no longer really a penalty, but rather sort of a trust fund to help you buy health care .

    >> and if it works, you could use that same thing with the gas tax , if we ever got there, to get us off the foreign oil . i'll save that for a different conversation.

    >> yes.

    >> you mentioned lowering costs. a few things that have struck me as a reporter, learning about our health care system as my job, one, the anti- trust system that exists for health care , anti-competitive nature for the single provider in so many of our states, 70%, 80% of the market. i'm sure you're familiar with that.

    >> yeah.

    >> the difficulty of getting any real choice for us in employer-based health care . not necessarily because we're dissatisfied, but because we can bring a much stronger market to bear on a national exchange if we truly have affordability. i know you understand market dynamics certainly as well, if not better, than i do. if you talk about reducing choice, where do you stand, as you look at this compromise, on the matter of anti-trust exemption and the matter of any variety of proposals for affordability for people like myself, ezra, or 147 million of us that may want to opt for a different plan that would yield lower costs?

    >> i agree with both of those. first, even in new york, which is supposed to have one of the more competitive marks -- i was with some construction company executives. they have either two, three or four plans to choose from. that's it, for their workers. we all know when there are very few, two, three or four, there's no price competition . that's why the price keeps going up. to get rid of the anti-trust exemption, i'm a co-sponsor of senator lehy's proposal to do just that. the more competition, the better. any way we can bring competition in to our plans to get the costs down, the number one reason health care costs go up -- not number one, but one of the top two or three, is that there is virtually no competition in large segments, overwhelming majority of segments in the insurance industry . anti-trust exemption is a good idea. many of us have advocating for a public option. in so many places if you leave it up to private industry , there won't be competition. and a level playing field public option, which competes on the same ground with the private insurance companies will bring costs down dramatically.

    >> as the lead negotiator for the democrats on this bill, as you go to the merger, will you allow, will you present a bill that doesn't have the public option, that does not have some sort of anti-trust, that does not have some form of choice?

    >> i think that we will -- the bill will involve all of those and be big improvements. we're working hard on the public option to get broad consensus in the caucus. i'm working with senator carper, for instance, one of the leaders of the moderate group, to get them on board, working with more liberal members, senator harkin, senator brown, senator sander, senator whitehouse. i think we can come to a compromise on that. as for the anti-trust exemption, it will be considered. it was not part of the finance or health committee. i will argue to put that in there. and as for more choice, the more choice, the better. and i like the issue of choice. i think it will help bring costs down.

    >> ezra, go ahead.

    >> a vote on tuesday in the finance committee which you'll be part of, then the merger of the health and finance bills and after that, votes of the merger of the house and senate bills. one on the public option, i've heard a bit about this compromise that will re-create public option that states can opt out of. will you be pushing that and the cbo has an excize cost on high-cost plans but ends up going down over time , but a lot of house members signed a letter to napsy pelosi saying they want that out of the bill. where do you stand on that as well?

    >> the main concern of the house members and me, many of us in the senate, is that middle-class members aren't hurt here. if you're a firefighter, say, and you make a decision that i'll only be paid $50,000 a year, sort of low salary for a skilled and important profession, but in turn i'll get a good, good health care plan, you shouldn't be taxed for that. i was told yesterday, for instance, there was a large company in california where the workers said cut our salaries by $4,000, but doesn't cut our health care . they shouldn't be taxed for that reason. on the other hand, there are lots of high-end cadillac plans that aren't in this category, and i think we can deal with those. i think we'll make a compromise here and move the number up a little bit and deal with particularly exempting these kinds of middle class people like firefighters from the tax.

    >> what of the issue of a public option that states could exempt themselves from if they didn't want to participate?

    >> that's one of the things being very seriously considered. i'm not going to -- we have a range of things we're considering. senator carper and i met for quite a while last night and made progress and talked to a large number of members last night, yesterday. and i am optimistic that there will be some kind of public option in the bill the president signs. i'm very optimistic.

    >> and for our viewers specifically, where do you find the greatest resistance to anti-trust, more choice, everything we just discussed? where do you run into -- it seems so self evident, they seem so obvious.

    >> yeah.

    >> i get confused.

    >> your question is obvious, too. the insurance industry is happy the way it is. they want more customers, but they want more customers on the same basis that they are now, which is without much competition so they can charge a maximum rate. and we need more competition to counter that.

    >> all right. listen, senator, thanks for making time for us this morning. keep us posted,

updated 10/8/2009 3:20:36 PM ET 2009-10-08T19:20:36

Buoyed by a new congressional report boosting President Barack Obama's prospects for overhauling the U.S. health care system, Senate leaders on Thursday scheduled a key committee vote on legislation for next week.

Obama has made overhauling the system his most important domestic issue, staking his presidency on pushing through the most sweeping makeover of the U.S. health care system in a half-century.

The legislation is largely in line with Obama's downsized ideas on changing how Americans get health care and offers the best prospects for bipartisan support despite strong Republican opposition and tepid enthusiasm from some conservative Democrats.

The Congressional Budget Office report issued Wednesday estimates that the 10-year cost of the Senate Finance Committee's plan would be $829 billion rather than more than $1 trillion that some had feared.

Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat, said the Finance Committee will vote Tuesday on the proposal that would expand coverage to 94 percent of eligible Americans, about 10 percent nearer to universal coverage than now, while reducing the U.S. budget deficit. Democrats hold a majority on the committee.

The measure would still leave around 25 million people uninsured, about one-third of them illegal immigrants who are ineligible for insurance.

The United States spends more on medical care than any other nation but is the only developed country without universal coverage. The private insurance that most Americans have comes through employers, and the Senate's Republican minority has been adamant in rejecting government controls on any part of the overhauled system.

Thus the proposal would not require employers to offer health care plans but would force large companies that do not to offset any government subsidies going to those employees.

The House of Representatives is also working on health care legislation, trying to produce one bill that brings together the work of three of their committees. After debates in the full Senate and House on both pieces of legislation, negotiators from both chambers must reconcile differences in their bills before the legislation gets to Obama's desk.

The president has said he hopes to sign the legislation before the end of the year, getting health care out of the way so he and other Democrats can prepare for elections in November of 2010.

Video: Is health care too costly? Senate Democrats and Republicans kept feuding over the the cost and breadth of the bill's coverage.

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Immediately after announcing plans for a Senate committee vote, Reid tore into Republicans, saying they have no health plan of their own to offer and are only trying to obstruct. He challenged them to be "productive partners rather than partisan protesters."

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell wasted no time in responding.

He dismissed the good news on costs and coverage as "irrelevant," saying Democrats would pump up the bill as it proceeds through Congress. "The bill ... will never see the light of day," he said.

All but one Senate Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe, agree with McConnell.

Once the Finance Committee passes the legislation, the bill will require approval from 60 of the Senate's 100 members to quash delaying tactics that the Republicans are almost certain to mount. All 57 of Obama's Democrats would have to vote for the proposal, as well as two independents who normally vote with them. That still would total 59, which means one Republican would need to go against the party and vote with the Democrats. Snowe has maintained silence on her intentions.

Video: $825 billion for health care? However, former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole and other prominent Republicans beyond Congress have recently spoken out in favor of a health care overhaul along the lines of the Finance Committee plan, without specifically endorsing it. That may provide some cover for Snowe, if she decides to vote for the bill Tuesday.

The legislation would reduce federal deficits by $81 billion over a decade and could lead to continued reductions in the years beyond, according to the budget office, released Wednesday. Those reductions would be the result of new taxes on some health insurance plans and cuts and savings in existing federal health programs.

Beginning in 2013 — when Obama may be starting a second term — Americans would be required to get health insurance, through an employer or a government program or by buying it themselves through a new insurance marketplace for consumers to compare and shop for a plan.

At present many Americans get health care insurance from their employers though there are government-run health care programs for the poor, the elderly and some military veterans.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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