Leahy pushes for health care public option

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says he strongly supports a public option plan in the proposed health care reform bill.

But Leahy says it’s too early to say how he’ll vote if the public plan isn’t part of the final version of the legislation.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Slowly but surely, a health care reform bill is moving its way through the U.S. Senate.

The Health and Labor committee has endorsed legislation that includes the creation of a new public option plan and the Finance committee is set to vote next week on its bill – it’s one that doesn’t include the public plan.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Senator Patrick Leahy said he thinks it’s critical to give consumers the choice of enrolling in a new public program:

(Leahy) "I want it because I want to have competition there as it is now you have some of the health care company when their chief executives can make millions and millions and millions of dollars a year then it tells you why our premiums keep going up if they public option is poorly run nobody is going to go to it, if it’s well run then it creates competition."

(Kinzel) Leahy says the health care reform bill has a long way to go in the Senate before there’s a final vote. He says he’ll decide at that time if he can support legislation that doesn’t include the public plan:

(Leahy) "I’d want to see what the final bill is, I long ago learned to not say I’m going to only vote for this bill only vote for that because that’s usually not your options you usually have a lot of things that change as it goes along this bill itself has changed dramatically during the time of the committees it’s going to change more before it reaches the floor."

(Kinzel) Leahy says he won’t hesitate to vote against the final reform bill if he concludes that it won’t be very effective in providing greater access to health care and controlling costs in the future:

(Leahy) "If public option doesn’t make it and if the final bill does not make sense to me and to a state like ours in Vermont well then I would vote against it."

(Kinzel) Senate leaders are hoping to have a bill on the floor for a vote by the end of this month.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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