(Host) Congressman Peter Welch says it’s critical that Congress finish work on a health care bill this year, before the issue gets even more politicized.
The House passed the bill this weekend. But it faces a possible filibuster in the Senate by opponents of a government-backed insurance plan.
VPR’s John Dillon has more:
(Dillon) Peter Welch was back home in Hartland after a weekend debate that concluded with the House narrowly passing the health care bill.
Welch says the bill contains several elements inspired by Vermont’s experience with health care reform.
(Welch) "Prescription drug price negotiations. We do that in Vermont. It was against the law in Medicare. And I proposed an amendment that comes right out of the work that the Vermont legislature and the governor did. We’ll have price drug negotiations for seniors. And we’re extending coverage for young people. We do that in Vermont, but this will apply to all kids, even if they’re not at home, up until their 27th birthday."
(Dillon) The House bill also includes a public option that will allow the consumers to choose a government health plan.
Welch says the public option is needed to provide competition to private insurance companies. But there’s strong opposition to the public option in the Senate. Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman has threatened to block the bill if it contains this provision.
Welch says he’s counting on Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders to lobby Lieberman on the issue.
(Welch) "There’s a lot of debate about what’s the best way to proceed. But there’s strong consensus that sticking with the status quo is a losing approach, we just can’t afford it any longer. And at the end of the day, folks like Lieberman, who frankly are bit of an impediment to progress, are, I hope, going to understand that."
(Dillon) Welch says he hopes the Senate will quickly debate the bill and that Congress can get it to President Obama by the end of the year.
(Welch) "If it goes over into next year it gets ever more dangerous. Passing health care is brutally difficult. There’s so many cross currents and different interests that are affected and the politics are ferocious. The later we delay this and the closer it gets to an election the more politics enters into it."
(Host) Welch said it would be difficult for him to fully support the bill if it comes back from the Senate without a public option
(Welch) "You know, it’s hard for me to get enthusiastic about a bill that doesn’t include choice for the consumer and competition for the insurance companies."
(Dillon) Only one Republican in the House voted for the bill. In the Senate, Democratic leaders are trying to find a way to get 60 votes in favor so the bill can survive a filibuster.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.