One of the most recalcitrant Democrats in the health care debate said on Wednesday that his skepticism about a public health insurance option was driven by concern for the health of private insurers.
Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Meeting," Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma said that he generally agreed that a government-run insurance program could effectively lower costs for consumers.
"The problem," he argued, "is in a state like Oklahoma, where we have a lot of private insurers, you have a public option come in and it drives everything else out and the only thing left is the public option and then you have rationed care."
Defending the private insurers is a tricky proposition for any Democrat, even a Blue Dog. For Boren, it is complicated by two other factors. The Oklahoman is a self-described fiscal conservative who has repeatedly raised concerns about health care costs. But, perhaps more significantly, a recent Congressional Budget Office report suggests that the congressman is wrong to suggest that private insurers would be driven from the market if forced to compete with a public plan.
On Tuesday, the CBO released a study estimating that 12 million consumers would sign up with the government-run option for insurance coverage -- a far cry from the 100 million envisioned earlier in the reform process.
Boren, who has received a relatively scant $195,000 from health professionals over the course of his career, predicted that Congress ultimately would not pass a bill resembling the one being pushed by his own party in the House of Representatives.
"[Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)] has got a bipartisan bill," Boren said. "It's the Wyden-Bennet bill. And in the House, Congressman [Jim] Cooper, (D-Tenn.), has been talking about the same thing. We need one of those solutions that is bipartisan. That may be the vehicle, at the end of the day. It may not be what comes out of the [Senate] Finance Committee, it may be something like the Wyden bill. It's not going to be the bill that has come out of the House, I can assure you of that."
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