Public Option Trigger May Be Senate Compromise, Reid Misleads on Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 4, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Public Option Trigger May Be Senate Compromise, Reid Misleads on Abortion

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 4
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Developments in the health care standoff in Congress late Friday signaled some direction on where the debate will go when lawmakers return from their August recess. A compromise bill maybe in the works that would have a public option trigger that would likely still include abortion funding.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated he may be open to compromising on the public option — the government-run health care plan generating significant opposition.

Reid said members of the Senate Finance Committee are looking at a bill that would make it so the public option is not immediately employed, but would go into play if the private insurance industry does not meet certain deadlines for making sure a certain percentage of the public has health insurance.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said he could lay out that plan as early as Saturday and that members of the panel have been working for weeks on it.

Baucus has led a group of six lawmakers to put together this trigger compromise and has waited to announce it until all of the provisions are put together.

Members of the Senate could accept the idea and replace the current Kennedy bill pro-life groups oppose with it, or they could balk at the idea and reject both plans altogether.

Reid told reporters late Friday that the trigger idea is something "we’re going to look at."

"We’re going to do everything we can to do a public option or something like a public option," Reid said.

A compromise bill would not likely eliminate the concerns pro-life advocates have about abortion funding.

Under the current House and Senate bills, a new government health insurance plan, the "public option," is created with $2 billion in start-up funds from the federal government. Several votes to make sure the money is not used to fund abortions have been defeated and the Obama administration would be left to determine if abortions are covered.

Merely forestalling a public option until a certain point would not stop pro-life groups from pointing out that the money could still be used to cover abortions if the public option is triggered.

Also, changing the public option to a trigger may not have any effect on the new program to provide subsidies to tens of millions of people to buy health insurance.

These subsidies ("affordability credits") would be given to health insurance companies to pay for the services people purchase and, in many cases, they will purchase abortions with the federal funds.

Meanwhile, Reid said he had been in communication with President Barack Obama, who is planning a speech to both houses of Congress next Wednesday that will be shown on network television.

He said he encouraged Obama to rebut some of the supposed misinformation that exists in the health care debate. That, to Reid, included the notion that the bills include funding for abortions and that they ration health care or encourage people to consider euthanasia or assisted suicide.

"The president is going to do well," Reid said. "There’s a lot of false information out there."

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