Kennedy: Public Plan, Mandate In Health Care Bill

(CBS/John P. Filo)
Updated at 7:05 PM E.T. with new information about the timing of the bill's introduction.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, one of the major players in health care reform, could reportedly introduce a bill this month that includes a government-managed health care plan -- a key element of any proposal for liberal health care reform advocates.

A draft outline of health care legislation under preparation in the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee also indicates the bill could include a mandate for all Americans to acquire health insurance, as well as a requirement for employers to contribute to workers' coverage, according to various reports.

The outline, according to the Washington Post, calls for expanding Medicaid to cover families with incomes up to 500 percent of the federal poverty level.

Bloomberg reports the bill may include a smaller expansion of Medicaid -- one that would cover people who earn up to 150 percent of the poverty level. The Children's Health Insurance program, which currently covers people up to age 18, may also be expanded to cover people up to age 26. According to Bloomberg, the bill may also propose paying health care providers participating in a public plan 10 percent more than they receive under Medicare.

The Hotsheet confirmed the bill will likely be introduced within the first half of June, and the committee will hold mark up sessions in the second half of the month.

Meanwhile, President Obama's group Organizing for America begins on June 6 a nationwide, grassroots campaign to promote health care reform.

"If we don't get it done this year, we're not going to get it done," the president told supporters on a conference call yesterday.

The inclusion of a government-run health care plan in the legislation is a point of contention between liberal and conservative groups that are both advertising their points of view heavily.

Kennedy made clear in an op-ed he wrote Thursday in the Boston Globe that a public plan, as well as a mandate for all Americans to buy insurance, would be included in his bill.

"Some Americans want the choice of enrolling in a health insurance program backed by the government for the public good, not private profit - so that option will be available too," he wrote. "If we succeed in providing good health insurance options and make them affordable to all Americans regardless of income, then people should have a responsibility to buy it for their families."

Some more moderate senators have also expressed more interest in the idea of a public plan, according to the Huffington Post. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who is working on his own health care legislation, is reportedly "fighting tooth and nail to include (a public option) in any final deal." Meanwhile, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who previously opposed a public option, said he is now open to the idea.

Comments