It will take a compromise on a government option for insurance if the Senate is to agree on a health care overall before next month's break, two senators said Sunday.
President Barack Obama is pushing for an Aug. 8 deadline for the Senate and House to vote on proposals that would reduce medical costs and provide coverage for the nearly 50 million of Americans who are uninsured. Obama says he wants to sign a bill by October.
"We'll get this done because we're doing it in a bipartisan way," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. "If we can reach a compromise, we can get this done by Aug. 8 or at least get it out of committee by Aug. 8."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also a committee member, said compromise is possible but that senators can't "take things off the table altogether," a reference to the Democrats' desire to include a government insurance option.
That is a sticking point for Republicans. They see a public or government insurance plan as unfair to the private insurance industry and the first step to nationalized health care. Obama and most fellow Democrats argue that a government plan would keep costs down and give consumers another option.
Grassley also warned that requiring companies with 25 or more employees to provide insurance or pay a fine — another proposal favored by most Democrats — would hurt small businesses and put many of them out of business. But he said the proposal for a government-run insurance program is the greater obstacle.
Schumer said that while he supports a public option he also is open to discussing the use of nonprofit insurance cooperatives as competitors to established insurance companies.
"I am not saying that the public option should be the only option. There are some who do say that, particularly in my party. But we shouldn't say there should be no public option," he said.
On the possibility of cooperatives as an option, Grassley said: "If they're within what we have known of cooperatives and the concept of cooperation for the last 150 years, I think we can reach a favorable compromise, and then enhance competition and enhance it in the private sector."
Ohio Rep. John Boehner, the House GOP leader, said the public option and the employer mandate were "deal-breakers" for his colleagues.
The Democratic approach to mandating health insurance through employer and individual mandates will "lead to higher costs, rationing, and lower quality health care delivery," Boehner said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., compared requiring all Americans to have health insurance with mandating that drivers carry auto insurance.
"We want everybody in the system," Hoyer said. "That will bring costs down."
Grassley and Schumer appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" while Boehner and Hoyer appeared on "Fox News Sunday."