Another week of health care reform debate

    The Senate Finance Committee starts week number two of mark up for the health care reform proposal. Delaware Senator Tom Carper will play an important role in any bill that comes out. He spoke to WHYY about his progress.

    Tuesday marks the start of  week two of the Senate Finance Committee’s mark up of the health care reform proposal from Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana).

    One of the highlights of this week’s discussion is expected to be the “public option,” a plan designed to spur competition where there is none.  Opponents say the option will not create competition, but will instead eliminate competition.  Delaware’s Senator Tom Carper (D) is a member of the committee.  He’s hopeful the public option will be implemented where needed on a state-by-state basis, similar to what’s been done with the Medicare prescription drug program.  Carper says since that public option was created, “We have seen robust competition from private plans for prescription drug coverage in every single state.”   Carper hopes a similar implementation of a “fall back” public option for health care will have the same impact.  He says, “The fall back public option could take a variety of forms, it could be  a cooperative, it could be almost an extension of the Mayo Clinic of Cleveland Clinic, non-profits where they do a great job of providing health care for less money.”

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    Last week, Carper drew fire from critics of his vote against an amendment that would have asked for $100 billion in rebates from drug makers over the next decade.  The industry had already pledged to cut $80 billion from their reimbursement rates for seniors buying prescription medicine.  Carper says he voted against the amendment because it put more of a burden on drug companies than on hospitals.  He says prescriptions represent one-tenth of health care expenses, while hospital costs account for one-third of health expenditures.

    Looking forward, Carper expects the reform plan to be voted out of committee by the end of the week.  He says there could be a health care bill approved in both the House and Senate by the end of next month.

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