Dean Helps Broker Compromise On Health Care
12/09/09 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) Former Governor Howard Dean helped broker a health care compromise that Senate Democratic leaders say could move the bill forward.
Dean's proposal is designed to satisfy both supporters and opponents of a "public option" health plan.
VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) While the vast majority of Democrats support the public option, all the Republicans and a few Democrats do not, and this group has threatened to filibuster the bill if the public option is part of the final package. And it appeared very unlikely that Democratic leaders could find the 60 votes that are needed to break a filibuster.
So Dean outlined a compromise plan to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid as a way to break the deadlock.
The compromise includes a plan that Dean proposed during his 2004 presidential campaign: allowing people between ages of 55 and 65 to buy into Medicare.
(Dean) "There's no point in reinventing a program if you already have all the infrastructure that can set it up. What they've done is allow people who are over 55, instead of over 65, buy into Medicare. So that's a big step forward and it does two things. First of all, of course, it allows more people to get in the government single payer if they want to. And, secondly, it uses a bureaucracy, which makes much more sense than even what's in the House bill."
(Kinzel) The second part of the compromise allows individuals to purchase health insurance coverage through a privately run organization that's modeled after the federal employee health system - it's a system that includes all of the members of Congress.
(Dean) "There's no magic about having a public system. All I want is a system that works, that's inexpensive and is as good as some of the other systems around the world. If you can do that in the private sector that's fine. ... And the federal employees package is a very good package. People like it."
(Kinzel) And Dean thinks the legislation, with the new compromise, deserves to pass.
(Dean) "These guys have made progress. I have to say that Congress as a whole, they've not done certainly everything. There's certainly a lot of things we can all take umbrage with and find fault with. But they've moved the ball down the field and this compromise, while it's certainly not what I would want, it is something worth voting for and it's worth supporting."
(Kinzel) Senate Democratic leaders are getting cost estimates on the compromise plan and they say they hope to garner some Republican support for the measure.
For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier