Welch says national health overhaul should include public option

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(Host) Congressman Peter Welch says the national health care overhaul should include a comprehensive public insurance option.

But he says he doesn’t know, yet, whether he’d vote against a bill if the public option weren’t included.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Welch is the co-sponsor of an amendment to the health care reform bill that calls for the implementation of a single payer system in this country. But he readily acknowledges that the plan has little support and has no chance of being adopted.

So as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he says he’s working hard to ensure that a strong public plan option is included in any final health care reform bill.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Welch says Democratic leaders in the U.S. House and Senate have different views about the public plan approach.

(Welch) "There is going to be an immense amount of pushing and pulling in Congress and the House has much more support in general for a strong public plan than the Senate. So at the end of the day, all of us are going to have to evaluate what is on the floor for a final vote and whether it moves us along with significant reform."

(Kinzel) Welch says he has a policy of not pledging to vote for or against a bill if it doesn’t include certain provisions.  So he’s not willing to say that he’ll vote against a reform bill that doesn’t include a strong public option.

(Welch) "Obviously, you make your decision on the final vote on the basis of your conclusion, ‘Does this really help Vermonters? Does it really help Americans?’ I think a plan that includes a strong public option would really do that. But I’ll have to make my final decision on the basis of what’s before me."

(Kinzel) Under the bill adopted by his committee, a person who has employer-sponsored health care coverage couldn’t drop that coverage and enroll in the public plan for at least eight years.  An exception would be made in cases where an employer decides to drop their health coverage.

(Welch) "The reason for that is to avoid enormous and immediate disruption in the coverage that folks do have. The apprehension among the folks who reviewed this is if you suddenly had a mass migration out of the insurance that people have, that it would collapse underwriting standards and do some damage and put some folks at risk. The point is you do have to have some time to make the transition and do it in a way that is not disruptive."

(Kinzel) Welch says he plans to travel around the state for the rest of the month to discuss the health care issue with as many Vermonters as possible.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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