Even in a summer of healthcare fatigue, a coalition of House Democrats plans to introduce legislation Thursday to establish a government-run "public option" that would be available to consumers in the overhaul law's insurance exchanges.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., a longtime leader in efforts to include a public option in healthcare reform, said her bill currently has 125 co-sponsors and is similar to legislation that was passed by the House Education and Labor Committee during the healthcare debate.
"We've tweaked it so [the public option] fits in the exchanges," said Woolsey.
The legislation pegs public option reimbursement rates to 5 percent above Medicare rates. Woolsey said the CBO has scored her new bill and it "scores better" than the original public option included in the House's healthcare bill.
Woolsey emphasized the new public option legislation would help cut the deficit and save money.
"Do we expect to vote on it this Congress? No, but we're ready," said Woolsey. "And what will we use it for? Do you want to cut the deficit? Do you want to have pay-fors, and ooh, competition to the insurance companies? Fiscally, it gives us a place to save and cut."
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., a co-sponsor and co-chairman of the Progressive Caucus, acknowledged that the bill did not have much of a chance of passing in this Congress.
"We know that the session is probably winding down, but we want to set the table for its discussion in the future," said Grijalva, who noted that removal of the public option from the bill was the "biggest loss" the House faced when voting on the Senate-passed healthcare overhaul bill.
"By reintroducing it, we make sure that people don't forget this is a viable option," he said. "I think as the health bill is implemented, more and more people are going to come to the realization that cost containment and competition aren't as robust as they should be, because of the absence of the public option."
This article appears in the July 24, 2010, edition of National Journal Daily.