Harkin: Health plan with ‘strong public option’ will pass by Christmas


At a fundraiser in Iowa Sunday, the new chairman of the Senate health committee, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, declared that a health-reform bill would pass both houses of Congress “by Christmas” and that it would include a government-run, not-for-profit health-insurance plan.

“Mark my word — I’m the chairman — it’s going to have a strong public option,” he told the crowd.

Harkin last week replaced the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee. The Iowa Independent reported from Indianola, site of Harkin’s 32nd annual “steak fry” fundraiser.

“[It] now falls to me to pick up the torch” left by Kennedy, Harkin noted.

Health care was a popular subject for all of the federal lawmakers here Sunday. Democratic U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, a member of the conservative Blue Dog caucus, received praise from his colleagues for standing up in a Democratic caucus meeting to declare his support for a public health insurance option. Other Blue Dogs have been reluctant to sign on to that component of President Barack Obama’s proposal.

Boswell and fellow Democratic U.S. Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack also expressed optimism that a final bill would include measures to reform medicare reimbursement rates. Medicare currently pays doctors in rural states like Iowa less than what doctors in densely populated states receive for the same procedures.

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