Senate Democrats on Wednesday largely embraced a compromise that dropped a “public option” from health-care legislation, setting aside their concerns about aspects of the consensus plan in the hopes that the deal hatched by negotiators would serve as a rallying point in their push for the passage of reforms.
Industry groups representing doctors and hospitals attacked one of the alternatives in the deal, designed to take the place of a proposed government-run insurance program, in the hours after Senate leaders announced it Tuesday night. They argued that a plan by liberal Democrats to allow uninsured individuals as young as 55 to buy into Medicare would be financially untenable and would jeopardize access to health-care services for millions of Americans.
But even Democrats who were not thrilled with the buy-in program applauded the deal’s central component: replacing the public option with two national private insurance policies under the oversight of the Office of Personnel Management, the agency that administers health benefits for federal employees.
“If there’s 60 senators who can reach agreement, I’m for it,” said Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), a chief sponsor of the bill, who represents the kind of rural state that industry groups said would be harmed by a Medicare buy-in. “Sometimes you’ve got to do a little bit on the liberal end and a little bit on the moderate end to reach agreement. And that’s what’s going on.”