Public Option Divides Senators on Health

(CBS)
If there was a dearth of metaphors to describe what President Obama needs to accomplish during his health-care speech Wednesday night before a joint session of Congress, the senior senator from Minnesota took care of that problem Tuesday morning.

"This is his moment put some meat on the bones," Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told Co-Anchor Harry Smith on CBS' "The Early Show."

And meat is what most Americans are looking for from Mr. Obama's speech. As CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante reported Tuesday, a recent poll shows that 60 percent of Americans think Mr. Obama has not clearly explained his plans to change the nation's health-care system.

Klobuchar and fellow Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) didn't add much meat to the debate during their joint appearance on "The Early Show." While the senators both said they agreed the system needs to change, the inclusion of a government-backed insurance plan, or public option, was still the major division between the two parties.

"I don't think a public option will be part of a final package," Corker said. "While I think certainly the president will mention that in a speech Wednesday night, I do not think it's going to be a part of a plan that passes unless it's done through reconciliation, which to me is not the route to go."

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The controversial legislative maneuver Corker referred to — reconciliation — would allow Democrats to pass a reform bill with only 51 votes in the Senate rather than the usual requirement of 60.

Klobuchar highlighted other goals the reform package could accomplish other than a Medicare-for-all public option.

"We need to put strong regulations on insurance companies so they can't punish people just because their family member gets sick," said Klobuchar. "The idea of a public option or something like it is to try to find a way to so that they can buy into something, and you can do it by allowing them to buy into the federal employee health-care plan."

Corker said both parties agreed that Americans should be able to buy health insurance at lower rates, but he used a different phrase than "public option."

"An exchange would do just that except people would be buying that through the private sector," Corker said. "Actually the insurance industry has agreed already that they're willing to come to the table and do away with this pre-existing conditions issue."

Klobuchar said she thought that Corker and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) would be "willing" to work with Democrats when Congress puts together the final version of the reform bill.
  • Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

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