Health insurance ‘opt out’ gaining votes in Senate

WASHINGTON — A proposal for government-backed health insurance is close to gaining the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate and probably will be in overhaul legislation, a Senate Democratic leader said Sunday.

Also, other Democratic officials said, businesses would not be required to provide health insurance under the legislation, but large firms would owe significant penalties if any worker needed government subsidies to buy coverage on their own.

A proposal for the public option that is gaining wide support would allow states to choose not to participate in a government-run insurance program, said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat. The “opt out” proposal is drawing support from many liberal and moderate senators and less opposition from lawmakers wary of government insurance, he said.

Although Democrats control the 60 votes needed to advance legislation under Senate rules, not all Democrats support creating a government-run health insurance program. Negotiations in recent days have focused on crafting a public option that would satisfy liberal and moderate Democrats and not drive away others.

Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat who objects to a national government-run insurance program, said he would be interested in a proposal that allows states to participate only if they ask to join; he called this approach an “opt in” program. Nelson’s vote would be critical in reaching the 60-vote threshold.

“I think if you go with a state-based public option, you can get bipartisan support,” Nelson said.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the public option is needed now to provide competition in regions where one or two insurance companies dominate the market.

“I’m fine with the state opt out,” Brown said.

Schumer said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is leaning strongly toward an opt-out public option. Reid, who would make the final decision about bringing legislation to the Senate for a vote, led a delegation of Democrats to the White House on Thursday to discuss the issue with President Barack Obama.

Sperately, for businesses with more than 50 employees, the penalty could be as high as $750 multiplied by the total size of the work force if only a few workers needed federal aid, other Democratic officials said under the condition of anonymity. That is a more stringent penalty than in a bill that recently cleared the Senate Finance Committee, which said companies should face penalties on a per-employee basis.

These officials also said individuals would generally be required to purchase affordable insurance if it were available, and face penalties if they defied the requirement.

The measure is expected to reach the Senate floor in about two weeks.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Report of downed hot air balloon turns up farmer’s tarp near Snohomish

Two 911 callers believed they saw a hot air balloon crash, leading to a major search-and-rescue response. It was a false alarm.

A few weeks before what could be her final professional UFC fight, Miranda Granger grimaces as she pushes a 45-pound plate up her driveway on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Her daughter Austin, age 11 months, is strapped to her back. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Daily Herald staff wins 5 honors at annual journalism competition

The Herald got one first-place win and four runner-up spots in SPJ’s Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest.

Most Read