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Dodd Defends Public Insurance Option

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut on Tuesday became the latest prominent Democrat to push back against President Barack Obama’s apparent newfound flexibility on the need to implement a public insurance option as part of comprehensive health care reform.

Dodd, who managed the markup of a health care reform bill in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, released a statement emphasizing the importance of enacting a public option. Dodd, the No. 2 Democrat on HELP, has run the committee in the absence of Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

“At this historic moment, faced with an urgent crisis in our health care system but blessed with an unprecedented opportunity to fix it, we cannot let politics as usual prevent us from delivering on the promise of change,— Dodd said.

In his statement, Dodd does not mention recent comments by Obama and prominent administration officials suggesting the president is open to implementing reform minus the public insurance option.

But the timing of Dodd’s statement and his remarks expressing support for the public insurance option proposal included in the HELP health care reform bill constitute a clear signal that the Connecticut Democrat is not interested in dropping the measure from his legislation.

“The Senate HELP Committee has passed a uniquely American bill, one that cuts costs, protects patient choice, and guarantees every citizen access to affordable, quality health care. It also includes a strong public option that has earned the support of moderates in both the House and the Senate,— Dodd said. “When Congress returns in September, the misinformation and anger of a hot summer will subside — and we will continue to move forward.—

The HELP Committee’s health care reform bill was approved by the panel last month on a party-line vote.

The HELP bill is set to be merged with health care reform legislation from the Senate Finance Committee into a single vehicle for floor consideration. It remains unclear if the public option in the HELP bill will survive that merger.

The Finance Committee has yet to report out a bill. A group of bipartisan negotiators in Finance have been leaning toward including a nonprofit medical cooperative instead of a public option.

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