Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the liberal who succeeded Senator Ted Kennedy as chairman of the Senate Health Committee, is predicting that Congress will pass healthcare reform with a public option before year’s end.
Harkin, who recognizes that there is opposition to the Health Committee’s bill, believes his fellow Democrats will join with President Barack Obama to pass a wide-ranging healthcare reform bill that the late Kennedy described as “the cause of my life.”
President Obama is championing an insurance marketplace where people who lack employer-provided healthcare can purchase coverage. This exchange would encompass private insurance companies and a public option to create competition aimed at driving down high premium prices. The majority of Republicans and some conservative Blue Dog Democrats oppose the public option, claiming it would have an unfair competitive advantage by offering lower prices. They reason that this would drive private insurers out of the market.
Because of Senate procedural rules, Democrats need 60 votes to avoid a Republican filibuster to delay the legislation. With Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s appointment of Paul Kirk to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat until next January’s special election, the Democrats now have that bullet-proof majority – assuming Harkin can bring the Blue Dogs into line.
“I’m convinced we’re going to have a healthcare reform bill on the president’s desk before we go home for Christmas,” Harkin said. “And there will be some form of public option. There’s a lot of support for it. We’re not going to accept defeat.”