Rockefeller announces he's giving up on public option

Senator who'd supported proposal says "no value" in passing version that exists "in name only"

Published February 24, 2010 3:15PM (EST)

Bad news for supporters of the public option today, news that will put a damper on talk of a comeback.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., a key proponent of the idea, had already said he wouldn't support using reconciliation to get the proposal passed through the Senate. In a statement released Wednesday morning, he went further, basically declaring the public option dead and saying it's time to move on.

The full statement:

From the very beginning, I have supported a strong and meaningful public option that would lower costs for consumers and hold health insurance companies accountable. That is why I introduced the Consumers Health Care Act (S. 1278), which would have saved consumers at least $50 billion over ten years. I also supported the House’s public option approach, which would have saved consumers more than $100 billion over ten years.

I fought for a meaningful public option, both in the Senate Finance Committee and on the Senate floor. My version didn’t pass out of committee and other versions were watered down. Unfortunately, there simply has not been enough support to date to pass a strong public option, despite these efforts.

I will continue to support viable options for enacting a robust public plan. Right now, however, there is no value for the American people in diminishing a meaningful public option so substantially that it exists in name only — and that is why we must focus our attention on the many great private health insurance reform ideas on the table today.

We need to continue the forward momentum on health care reform, and find ways to hold health insurance companies accountable and to lower costs for consumers. This is why I am fighting for other effective ways to achieve these health insurance reform goals, including a minimum medical loss ratio (MLR) requirement and the creation of a federal authority to review premium increases — both are included in the President’s proposal along with a number of other critical health insurance reforms.

I do not oppose reconciliation, and have long made the case for exploring all avenues available to pass health reform.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform Jay Rockefeller