In an effort to regain control of the healthcare reform debate, President Barack Obama plans to take his message to Congress Wednesday.
The debate followed lawmakers home, where they came face to face with constituents’ questions, concerns, and sometimes even anger. Some of what they were hearing may very well influence how they view the proposals up for consideration as they return to Washington.
One of the most contentious debates is whether the final bill should include a public plan–a government-funded, government-run healthcare option–similar to Medicare. Some critics say it would give the federal government control over what should be personal decisions and would put private insurers out of business. Others say some employers will use it as a way to avoid providing coverage for their workers.
Many liberal lawmakers, including several Congressional Black Caucus members, have vowed not to vote for any bill that doesn’t include a public option. And to their dismay, the president seems to be wavering on a previous commitment to it.
Christina Romer, chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, says Obama still believes a public option is the best way to ensure that everyone has the same level of access to affordable care and provider options. That doesn’t mean he’s ruling out the notion of healthcare cooperatives–nonprofit groups that create networks of providers and negotiate payment rates with them–which may attract bipartisan support.
“Some members have mentioned co-ops, and it’s something that we and Congress will be thinking about and studying as we go into the fall,” Romer said.
Here’s a look at how provisions in legislation agreed to by the House Tri-Committee (Ways and Means; Education and Labor; and Energy and Commerce charged with healthcare oversight) and a bill from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee would impact small business. (Eventually, a third proposal from the Senate Finance Committee will be added to the mix and any final bill passed will be based on components of each committee’’s proposals.)