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Pressure Mounts on Snowe, Rockefeller and Wyden

Sens. Wyden (D-Ore.), Snowe (R-Me) and Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).
(Photos, from left to right: - AP, The Washington Post, AP).

Updated and corrected 11:02 a.m.
By Sarah Lovenheim
Passage of a health-care bill out of the Senate Finance Committee hinges on whether Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) can reap enough votes from the member of his panel, which is composed of 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Here's some of the latest buzz surrounding the swing-vote senators, illustrating the pressure they're under as they approach a decision.

IBD: 'Another Snowe Job?'
Investors' Busines Daily (IBD) asked today, is Congress in for "Another Snowe Job?" Before the lone Republican considering voting for the Baucus bill makes a decision, the financial publication wants Snowe to review health care in her home state. Maine pushed for universal coverage in 2003 to cover 128,000 uninsured residents but today, IBD says it covers just 3,400. Kerri Houston Toloczko, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Liberty, told IBD that "the system was so broke that it closed to new enrollees." IBD's conclusion? Before making up her mind, "the least Sen. Snowe should do is consider the damage that similar legislation has done to her own small state."

Kyl: 'I Don't Know Where She's Going to Be'
In an interview late Monday on FOX News Channel's "On the Record w/Greta Van Susteren," Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) said that although he'd like Snowe to oppose the bill, he's unclear about how she'll vote.

Kyl: "I don't know what Senator Snowe will do, but I know right now that she's very concerned about the cost of the bill and the fact that the Congressional Budget Office is not able to provide us with an accurate cost of what the bill is... We've only been talking in concepts so far, and they say that their cost estimate could differ significantly once it's put into actual legislative language. So she's taking the position until she sees that, she's not going to commit. And so I don't know where she's going to be at the end of the day."

Daily Kos to Rockefeller and Wyden: 'Continue to Hold Out'
The liberal blog Daily Kos is calling on Democratic Senators Ron Wyden (Ore.) and John D. Rockefeller (W.Va.) to keep pressuring Senate Finance Committee colleagues to vote for the sort of bill they want, regardless of calls to compromise.

Daily Kos cited an interview Wyden participated in Sunday, in which he urged Congress to hold insurance companies accountable to hold down premiums, as the sort of argument that should continue ahead of a vote count. "It's more likely than not that the bill will pass out of Senate Finance.... But hopefully Wyden and Rockefeller will get some concessions out of Reid and the White House to make that happen, so for now, they should continue to hold out," it concluded.

Forbes Magazine on Wyden: 'He'll Get Another Chance'
Forbes Magazine writes that although "one can almost hear the corks popping along K Street as industry lobbyists celebrate" since the health bill lacks provisions requiring special interests to cede much in terms of market share, Wyden's influence in the debate could change this.

His fight for more consumer options, according to Forbes, isn't over. Wyden's amendment to provide consumers with more choice in insurance coverage was omitted from the Committee's bill last week but he could "get another chance to add it when the full Senate takes up health care reform in the coming weeks."

This item originally incorrectly stated the number of Republicans on the committee.

By Sarah Lovenheim  |  October 6, 2009; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform , Swing Senators  
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Next: Split Persists Over McChrystal Testimony


if what democrats say we need is "choice", they should love the republican plan to give consumers the choice to buy insurance plans across state lines, just as you can do with car insurance.

can anybody explain what justifies the democrats' opposition to the choice/competition/freedom enhancing idea?

Can you imagine if we couldnt buy cars, clothes, or furniture across state lines? we would never stand for it, why do we stand for it when it comes to health insurance?

Posted by: dummypants | October 6, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

So, dummypants, are you also in favor of a public option to ensure real competition and have a real marketplace? Or are you selective as most Repubs and conservative critics of health reform are?

Of course, all this homage to the marketplace is misplaced... we should all remember the economic melt down over the past year or two, so much for free enterprise and laissez faire capitalism!

Let's just cut to the chase and enact single payer. It's the only sane and humane--and cost efficient--reform.

Posted by: Astrogal | October 6, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Ah yes, the fabled Republican idea to "buy insurance across state lines". This sounds attractive but fails the test for two reasons:

It will lead to a race-to-the-bottom phenomenon, wherein insurance companies will flock to states with the least regulation and fewest standards for what qualifies as "health insurance". Those who disagree fail to understand why credit cards love Delaware and North Dakota - they can get away with a whole lot more than if they were based in New York.

This could be circumvented if Congress would institute national standards for what qualifies as basic health insurance, but Republicans vehemently oppose this as "meddling" in state's affairs and State's rights. Take both (insurance across state lines & National minimum standards for health insurance) or neither.

More broadly, allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines might not be constitutional, per the Commerce clause which deals with inter-state business.

Posted by: scadolph | October 6, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Nothing wrong with allowing insurance to be sold across state lines as long as states can retain the right to require actual protection for their citizens. Insurance providers should not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of a customer's health history. Americans who are of an age to be productive citizens want the same right to health care that Americans over 65 already enjoy.

The cost of taxes-plus-health-insurance is much higher for Americans than it is for Canadians or most Europeans. America's insurance industry pays for a giant bureaucracy whose main function is to deny coverage. Canadian provincial governments have the clout to control costs by negotiating with health-care suppliers, while America's litigation-plagued culture forces health-care providers to pay for unneeded tests and procedures. That's why Americans get less actual health for a much higher cost than Canadians.

A public option isn't necessary as long as states can tender out lowest-common-denominator coverage for those not currently covered.

Posted by: lartfromabove | October 6, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

This topic is a no-brainer. It should have been done already.

Republicans are a cancer on the nation by themselves, let alone on the lives of so many americans and an economy that need this reform.

Why are we the last civilized country on the planet to take care of this?

I guess I thought wrong in thinking we were civilized. Too many knuckle dragging neanderthals still.

Posted by: jfern03 | October 6, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Hey dummypants, as an insurance agent, I can assure you that you can not buy auto insurance across state lines unless the agent is licensed in all the states he sells in.
That said, all options for limiting the growth of premiums, deductibles, and increasing coverage should be on the table. And expecting insurance companies to do the right thing is like trying to teach pigs to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

Posted by: COLEBRACKETT | October 6, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

There is a HUGE problem with the Republican proposal to allow coverage across state lines. That problem involves the fact that insurance regulations vary greatly among the states. Some states like many in the South have very loose regulations which fail to protect consumers, while many states in the Northeast, Pacific Coast and Upper Midwest regions have substantial consumer protections built into their regulations. The fear is that in effect such a law would result in watering down consumer protections in insurance regulations, with the regulations of the weakest-regulated states ruling the day, and resulting in even less accountability for the insurance companies.

There are already in the Finance Committee bill provisions to allow states to band together for joint exchanges, but the states would have to synchronize their regulations. The Republican proposal would just open the door to the insurance companies being able to dictate terms to consumers even more than already is the case. The Finance Committee approach is the one most likely to succeed in actually providing more quality options to consumers while restraining health care costs. Senator Wyden's approach actually would go even further, and he is correct that his amendment would introduce a much wider range of options while allowing for even larger risk pools of consumers participating in the exchanges.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | October 6, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

While I think a public option would be a great advance for health care insurance choice, there is another action that would make a substantial difference. Senator Leahy introduced the idea again this year in mid-September as he previously had with bipartisan sponsorship in 2007. This idea is incredibly simple, repeal the anti-trust exemption that the insurance industry enjoys.

Posted by: jeffnn1 | October 6, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

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