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Snowe Stays in the Spotlight

By Sarah Lovenheim
The Senate Finance Committee's vote to pass health-care reform legislation Tuesday received just one Republican senator's support. And that senator, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, remains in the spotlight as pundits and politicos speculate about her role in the health-care reform debate moving forward. Here's a look at the latest buzz.

Alex Nussbaum and Pat Wechsler of Bloomberg News write that the insurance industry, though critical of the bill, is lauding Snowe's position.

Although America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) has said the bill "imposes hundreds of billions of dollars in new health-care taxes and provides an incentive for people to wait until they are sick to purchase coverage," Snowe's support "may be a good sign for insurance companies," according to Matt Perry, a Wachovia Capital Markets analyst in New York.

Perry considers Snowe's support fortuitous, according to Nassbaum and Weschler, because "As long as Snowe maintains her leverage, the bill is unlikely to move to the left... We're unlikely to see a government-run public option," he said.

Politico's Chris Frates writes that if anything, Snowe's vote means Democrats will "have to continue to address her concerns about affordability and excessive government intrusion into health care."

Her vote could "give bipartisan cover to moderate Senate Democrats" such as Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Evan Bayh of Indiana. It also "frees the White House to turn its attention to gathering more Republican supporters." Frates said the other Republican senator from Maine, Susan Collins could become another target of Democrats as they seek to expand bipartisan support.

The New Republic's Noam Scheiber said Democrats should be careful to keep Snowe on their side. Snowe's "yes" vote yesterday positions her "to grab a bigger seat at the decision-making table" as Majority Leader Harry Reid crafts a bill with Democrats to send to the Senate. But "if you alienate her during the forthcoming negotiations, her defection from the final bill would be disastrous."

Phillip Klein of the American Spectator writes that although Snowe's support "may strengthen" Sen. Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) hand in negotiations with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Chris Dodd of the HELP Committee, everything "will hinge on whether House liberals cave in on their demand for a government plan, or dig in."

Boston Globe writers Lisa Wangsness and Susan Milligan exploring the impact that Snowe's vote could have on her Senate colleague in Maine, conclude that despite a "rivalry" between the two senators, Maine will support Snowe, its senior senator.

Christian Potholm, a political scientist at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, told Wangsness and Milligan that "because of the importance of this issue, and because Mainers do not understand what is in the bill but trust Snowe deeply and see her as the expert on this issue, they are likely to view Snowe's vote as the right one."

"People have a great sense that if anybody knows whether it's a good or bad bill, it will be her,'' Potholm said.

By Washington Post editors  |  October 14, 2009; 10:34 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform , Swing Senators  
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Next: Rep. Wexler Resigning for Think-Tank Job


Olympia Snow is an intellectual light weight – that is why she is perfectly attuned to the state she represents. But one more time, she is wrong – she was wrong in the Stimulus Bill. Without explanations, she states, categorically, that to maintain the status quo is worse. She does not explain how increasing the cost of healthcare for practically every American on top of increasing their taxes to redistribute the benefits to those that can not pay, is better than the status quo. She does not explain why is better to add to the deficits, all while reducing the service and quality to the senior population. She does not explain how are you going to convince healthy young people to pay 3,000 to 5,000 dollars a year to subsidize the older and sicker people and the now uninsured. She does not explain how Medicare is going to save 500B in 6 years (2013 to 2019) when they have not been able to save a dime since 1965. That is why Olympia Snow is better off making wide generalizations because I do not think she has a clue.

Posted by: JohnGalt9 | October 14, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I work for a company of 1100 that is owmed by one man. He pays a fair wage and our benefits are above average.

The current economy however, has taken its toll and we've laid off approximately 150 employees. Right, wrong or indifferent, this is a corporation and it is in existance to make a profit. We are currently self insured and if costs go up too much, the owner will have no other choice than to abandon our current coverage and have employees take the so-called 'public option'.

If this fiasco of a bill does pass, this scenario will be repeated across America as millions will no longer be able to keep 'their existing health coverage'. If the left thinks that we are 'angry' now, just wait until this happens.

Posted by: AkCoyote | October 14, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Here we have someone spouting the full republican line--I guess it takes one to know one when it comes to intellectual lightweights. How save on Medicare (itself a government option)? Stop funneling an extra supplement to insurance companies in order to privatize it, a ridiculous step the Republicans took under Bush. Snowe is a smart politician, who wants a seat at the table. Too bad the republican'ts have been so taken over by extremists that her colleagues are afraid to join her.

Posted by: woodside1 | October 14, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Here we have someone, johngalt1,spouting the full republican line--I guess it takes one to know one when it comes to intellectual lightweights. How save on Medicare (itself a government option)? Stop funneling an extra supplement to insurance companies in order to privatize it, a ridiculous step the Republicans took under Bush. Snowe is a smart politician, who wants a seat at the table. Too bad the republican'ts have been so taken over by extremists that her colleagues are afraid to join her.

Posted by: woodside1 | October 14, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

AKCoyote, right on time with the b.s. scare tactics...
here's one for ya. I work for a small company, less than twenty employees. Our insurance premiums just went up 25%...zing!
Thanks for making my choice for me, UHC!
What you, and every other "We won't be able to keep what we got" people don't get is this:
If there is a public option, or co-ops or whatever, you WILL be able to keep your doctor, your pill plan, and every other aspect of your Health insurance will remain THE SAME. The only difference will be it will be cheaper, you don't have to stay at a crummy job (Home Depot, I'm looking at you)to keep your insurance, and you won't be tossed to the wolves the minute you get diabetes, a heart condition, male pattern baldness, whatever.

This is obvious to even the casual observer...or do you think hospitals and doctors will just say "no thanks" to a huge pool of insurees with a guaranteed payer?
No one ever discovered new lands by standing on the shore. It's time to let go of your fear and get on the 21st Century healthcare train. You know, the one every other Westernized country on Earth has been riding for awhile now?

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | October 14, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

As a previous resident and small business owner in the State of Maine, I understand fully why Olympia Snow "jumped ship" and voted in favor of health care reform. The current state run medical program in the State of Maine is an absolute JOKE! Abused by people who want free health care, funded by the hard working citizens of Maine and in financial ruins. So, Ms. Snow just wants a larger version of what Maine already has hoping it will come in and save the mess her state run health care is in. Only problem is, she's just going to get a bigger mess managed by the federal govt. Way to Go Ms. Snow. I think you just ended your political Career!

Posted by: smkelly22 | October 14, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday (10/13/2009)my mother received a letter from General Motors. GM sent out a letter to retired/former employees and announced they will no longer provide medical coverage to people who worked over 20 years of their lives at GM.

My mother and her husband no longer have insurance.

My mother and her husband are extremely worried. He put in 38 years at GM and now sees a major part of his retirement package gone. My brother-in-law faces the same fate, and retired from the same factory.

My mother has had 3 cancer operations (lost both breasts) and 2 major strokes; he just had a rectal cancer operation a few months ago; the brother-in-law had a major heart attack on the shop floor 3 years ago and my sister has had 5 hip operations over the coarse of her life.

Where are these people going to get health insurance?

Mom is in a panic. Just one medication they bought yesterday and had to pay out of pocket cost $155 for a month supply (they each take about 10 pills a day). He came home and told her they need to speak to the doctor about all the meds they need and how to reduce the cost.

These are hardworking Americans who spent their lives working for a company they trusted and saving to enjoy retirement in their paid for home. They are freaking out.

Posted by: morenews1 | October 14, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

By the by, I'd like to extend an invitation to moderate and sane Republicans like Olympia Snowe to go Independent. Since the GOP will be rejecting anyone to the left of Joe McCarthy for the forseeable future, now would be an excellent time for the seven moderates left in the party to come on down to Sanity Land (A.K.A. America) and leave the WARBAMS (White And Rich Boys And Michael Steele) (formerly the GOP) to their unfettered rage, dribble glasses, and their solid gold toilet seats (kept warm by their uninsured undeclared illegal alien seat-warmers).
R.I.P 2009 G.O.P.
It was nice not knowing you.

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | October 14, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

AKCoyote, right on time with the b.s. scare tactics...
Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | October 14, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse
Excuse me? There is nothing 'BS' about this. Our 401K match and profit sharing are indefinitely suspended. We have a hiring freeze. We have a non-essential travel freeze. All non-essential spending has been slashed. Business is off 75% in the state where our home office is located.

The so-called 'public option' isn't looking very optional. So much for the LIE that we can keep our coverage if we want to.

Posted by: AkCoyote | October 14, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I stopped listening to Republican financial and political advice when they were making a push to privatize Social Security.

Can you imagine where SS would be right now in the current economy, if it had been tied to the market?

Just shows that Republicans have no clue how to run a country, they just want to keep as much of their money as they can... so they cut programs for the poor and give tax breaks to the rich.

Trickle-down economics works so well... I mean, look how great it did under Reagan (record deficit), and under Bush (another record deficit).

I can't wait for the Republican Party to implode, and those moderate Republicans go Independent, leaving the GOP to the birthers, fundamentalists and other general nutjob racists.

Posted by: fido5150 | October 14, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse


I understand your concern, but your situation is a fringe case... there are very, very few companies that are self-insured.

But if it concerns you, write your congressmen, and bring it to their attention that something needs to be done to address situations like your company finds itself in.

It isn't a done deal, yet.

Posted by: fido5150 | October 14, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Snowe may be the only sane person involved
in healthcare/insurance reform. The Democrats missed the mark when they decided to make insurance companies the villain. Yes, there are some insurance executive salaries that are ridiculous, but its doubtful they're the reason for
our premiums soaring. Instead of playing games and creating villains, democrats should have been focusing on reducing costs
through torte reform, lifting anti-trust laws for more competition, and cutting hopsital, doctor, drug company Costs. The
Democrats wasted a whole lot of time and made fools of themselves instead.

Posted by: ohioan | October 14, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Snowe isn't only a player, she's talking about crucial points, unfortunately.

Supporters of a Public Option should think about "medical loss ratio" regulation as a very good alternative point to work for instead.

It's the portion of total premium revenues an insurer then pays out in health claims. The average in the U.S. is about 80% now. It was well above 90% in the 1990s.

Reform proposals at the moment suggest regulating this up to 85%.

That is not high enough.

The bit the other day about premiums going up isn't all smoke and mirrors. They will for simple reasons, like closing loopholes, for instance. When you pay less out-of-pocket, then you pay more in premiums, even if you pay the same net overall costs (neglecting health inflation).

When I think about the trade offs between insurance reform versus costs (costs of health insurance premiums and federal subsidies), I keep coming back to the implication that 2 kinds of cost-reduction *must* happen for reform to succeed.

1. Near Term: Either
A) "health benefit ratios" (medical loss ratios, the portion of premiums insurers pay out in health claims) must go *much* higher in exchange for the mandate, such as 90% instead of only the meager 85% currently on the table. OR
B)some other method of relatively quick (a few years) cost competition such as a national public option that states can opt out of, etc.

2. Longer term cost reduction: the type of reform I've focused on in my blog, such as how to get to more "integrative" (Mayo clinic) medical practice to lower cost by changing how treatment is paid for (click on my name for my blog).

But the near term cost reduction is key to the Congressional quandary I think. Insurers must basically give to get.

In exchange for continuing have their dominate position, they will have to change their payout ratios much more sharply than only from the current 80% up to 85%.

We should be talking about 92%, and possibly settle for 90%, at a absolute minimum. (One analysis suggests about 94% is optimal (on my blog))

Posted by: HalHorvath | October 14, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

More on my comment just above at:

Posted by: HalHorvath | October 14, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I read another headline on this subject. Obama says, "its not perfect but it a start". After reading that it makes me think that some of these lawmakers are more concerned that they pass anything than something thats really going to help. I feel something that affects everyone and the costs, (now and unforseen) that it has to be perfect. I realize that the system we have now needs to be fixed but something this important should not be decided with deadlines to meet. If they pass a bill just to get it passed defeats the whole purpose. For someone like myself who has had insurance since the eary 1970's, my rates should not go up. But I bet your bottom dollar that they will if things keep going the way they are.

Posted by: rainman2 | October 14, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Universal coverage.
Cover everyone.

Government pays all bills.
Citizens pay taxes.

What's so hard about that?

Posted by: bgreen2224 | October 14, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I'll tell you whats so hard about that. The government always overspends when it pays bills, (they alway have more going out then coming in). The amount of taxes we will be paying because they always over spend is more than most of us can handle. the government has never been able to balance the budget that we pay them to work with. Most americans are to the point that they will no longer let that happen.

Posted by: rainman2 | October 14, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Bottom line...being in the insurance business is like being the house in a Las Vegas casino...usually you win, but occasionally you lose.
The difference is, if a Vegas casino threw out everyone who won without paying, they wouldn't be in business very long, because there is a COMPETITOR right down the road.
The insurance industry is one big clubhouse of companies who all have the same policy, i.e.- If we win, fleece that loser. If we lose, toss that winner out the door right quick, and close all doors to getting back in.
They've turned a risky proposition into a sure thing by ELIMINATING COMPETITION.
See how that works, the GOP? Well, actually, I'm sure you know how that works. But you've dedicated all this time and effort talking your constituents into fighting their best interests, so I guess there's no going back now. But when Healthcare Reform actually works, don't come crying to me when voters remember whose side you weren't on (theirs).
But hey, I'm not saying those poor insurance company execs have to take a pay cut...
Everywhere else in the Westernized world, in countries with public option healthcare that have insurance companies operating within the system, those companies have administrative costs that run around 12%. Here, in the Wild Insurance West, it's 20%. The difference is billions of dollars, and, gee, it shouldn't be too hard for the insurance industry to outperform the government in bureaucratic efficiency, since they keep telling me how horribly inefficient the government is at everything.
Or maybe they could stop paying lobbyists, lawyers, and propaganda firms so much money to mislead and mistreat the American Public.
All I know is, EVERY other so-called "1st world" country has healthcare for every citizen (in Spain, they treat tourists and illegal aliens like citizens and STILL no one there is complaining). Surly the greatest country of them all can do it.
Much like with Wall Street, in healthcare it's time for the customer to always be right again.

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | October 14, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Snowe = RINO

Posted by: BubbaRight | October 14, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

She already said she will vote against a public option, for the record.

Posted by: ssol4569 | October 14, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

So this senator whom everyone knows is a RINO votes for the bill and that's supposed to be a big deal? Why is that? The democrats already had all the votes they needed to get the bill passed out of the committee..they didn't need any other votes at all. But for some stupid reason, this person's single vote is sooooooo important. Is it because the democrats want to say it was a bipartisan effort? Why? Are they afraid to take responsibility for it on their own? What difference does ONE vote from ANY other party matter if it is the only vote received from outside the democrat majority?

One vote, particularly from a RINO, does not make this bombasm of a bill a bipartisan effort, no matter what the dimocrat party and its complicit media goons might say. Don't be fooled.

Posted by: flintston | October 14, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I think what many Americans object to is your (and the GOP's) short-term memory loss...because I sure don't remember any of these staunch fiscal conservatives complaining while billions of dollars were funneled to Iraqi "contractors" (expatriot Sunnis who initially fled Iraq but were convinced to come back by, guess who, the Bush admin.), none of which is accounted for.
I could cite examples ad nauseum, but since facts don't matter to the right, it would be a waste of time.
Suffice to say, the GOP fiscal conservatives ONLY come out swinging when it's the middle class or the poor that the money/savings would go to.

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | October 14, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

If anyone thinks that the GOP, the right wing pundits, and "fiscally conservative democrats" have the interests of the average American in mind, that person is out of their "right" mind.

Our politicians have been purchased by the health insurance industry.

Over $10 MILLION has been given to the OPPONENTS of health care reform (ABC evening news).

On the news today, it was announced on the news that the most recent "study" that was critical of health care reform (that was paid for by the health insurance industry) was "flawed" in its research methodology (PBS).

(Just for your own edification: Whenever there is any "research" or "study" done and the results announced take the time to investigate who paid for the study and who pays the salaries of the researchers and what financial strings are attached and that will help you determine how good a study is along with the statistical data. Anyone who has studied statistics can tell you any study that has a statistical error of more than 3 points +/- has too great a rate of error and thus not reliable.)

Now to the meat of the matter:

The very, very fiscally conservative Swiss have a system of health insurance that allows both public and private options -- the private insurance industry is well regulated; thus, the private and public must both work well to stay competitive with one another.

Why, oh, why don't we have the same?


So, folks, when you believe that health care reform will hurt America, you have bought into the lies and fears the health insurance industry's have been spreading courtesy of their shills -- the politicians and conservative talk show hosts.

The health insurance industry does not care about you or me -- only their profits.

The American people are S.O.L.

Posted by: abbydelabbey | October 14, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"Excuse me? There is nothing 'BS' about this. Our 401K match and profit sharing are indefinitely suspended. We have a hiring freeze. We have a non-essential travel freeze. All non-essential spending has been slashed. Business is off 75% in the state where our home office is located."

Have you fallen on your knees and prostrated yourself before your man-god, George Bush, and ask him why he did this to you?

Quit whining. You vote Republican, you reap the harvest of sorrow that goes along with it.
Personally, I don't care if you lose everything you have. Maybe it will wake you up.

Posted by: captainkona | October 14, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

We are sure that there are a substantial number of persons who earn more than $250k, who are willing to pay their fair share of taxes. We also are sure that there is a substantial amount of CEO’s and Executives throughout our country whose earnings are outrages, whom in many cases take advantage of the American people. We all agree that our veterans, troops, and their family’s makes the ultimate sacrifice, and the American people have made sacrifices in tax dollars for bailouts of trillions of dollars, and from the previous administration deficits. We also know that the top 1% earners make more then the total bottom 95% of earners. So what is the problem? Why aren’t they paying their fair share of taxes? Shouldn’t the American tax payers recoup money that some CEO’s and Executives have stolen from us? Shouldn’t they make sacrifices along with the rest of us? We still also need a strong public health insurance option to start paying off our $11.9 trillion dollar national debt including the huge amount of interest compounded daily.

Posted by: bobv1 | October 14, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I don't care if you lose everything you have. Maybe it will wake you up.

Posted by: captainkona | October 14, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse
This from the party of hope and tolerance. You are really a small pathetic individual. I feel sorry for you.

Posted by: AkCoyote | October 14, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Why aren’t they paying their fair share of taxes?

Posted by: bobv1 | October 14, 2009 3:12 PM |
Simple question. Exactly how much is a 'fair share'? If a person makes $10 million, How much is fair? Or how about $1 million? $500,000? $250,000? $100,000? Exactly what do you consider to be a 'fair' tax on these individuals? Just curious.

Posted by: AkCoyote | October 14, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

The Senate Finance Committee’s vote this week marked an important step forward in the push for meaningful health care reform. While not perfect, the bill does include some excellent ideas, such as creation of the CMS Innovation Center. It also provides a helpful framework upon which to advance other crucial measures, namely full physician payment reform. My colleagues and I at the American College of Cardiology applaud Senator Snowe for supporting this legislation, and helping bring us even closer to our shared goal – a vibrant health care system that meets the needs of every American.

Dr. Jack Lewin, MD
CEO, American College of Cardiology

Posted by: accintouch | October 15, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

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