The public option has had a rough couple weeks. But as President Obama talks about “compromise,” conservative Democrats waver, and Republicans continue to express their adamant opposition, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va), a key member of the Senate Finance Committee, is standing firm. Rockefeller will not vote for the health insurance reform legislation proposed by finance committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), which does not include a public option, Rockefeller told reporters on a Tuesday afternoon conference call.
Baucus’s bill proposes health insurance cooperatives; between four and seven such co-ops exist in the US today, depending on how the term is defined. But Rockefeller doesn’t think co-ops are enough. He believes the government has the needed experience in providing insurance and has the ability to act as a much-needed competitive force in the insurance market, bringing down costs. “The public option is there as a benchmark that is a discipline for competition,” he said.
Rockefeller said he hopes the public option will gain more support as a final vote on health care reform draws near. He suggested that other Democrats on the finance committee shared his concerns with the Baucus bill. It’s hard to imagine any reform bill getting through the finance committee without the support of Rockefeller and other more liberal committee members.