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Finance Panel Completes First Week of Health Markup

Week one of the Senate Finance Committee health care markup concluded Friday at noon, with plans to reconvene on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Today’s session, a shortened affair after three consecutive late nights, concluded free of some of the political fireworks that occurred earlier in the week.However, next week could see some spirited debate, as Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Finance Subcommittee on Health Care Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) are planning to propose an amendment to add a public insurance option to Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) proposal. The bill in its current form calls for the implementation of nonprofit medical cooperatives.Schumer and Rockefeller had originally planned to offer the amendment Friday but decided late Thursday to delay until at least Tuesday, when the Senate returns from what will essentially be a three-day weekend in observance of Yom Kippur. Schumer said following Friday’s markup session that he and Rockefeller have separate public insurance option amendments and are still discussing whether to offer a single joint proposal or proceed on two tracks. “I think there’s a really high chance that at the end of the day there’s a public option … in the bill that [President Barack Obama] signs,— Schumer said.At this point, the Finance Committee appears unlikely to adopt a public insurance option, given the expected opposition of all of the Republicans as well as the moderate Democrats who sit on the panel, including Baucus.That might disappoint the liberals on Finance. Those Democrats who have previously expressed unhappiness with the bill as introduced last week said some of the amendments adopted this week were a step in the right direction. Still, these Democrats indicated that more adjustments must be made to earn their vote.“We’ve had some improvements in driving down cost. That’s a key concern of mine,— Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said. “So we’ve had some changes. But it needs more change.—

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