Cantwell Amendment Passes
It's not much, but for people making between 133-200% of the federal poverty level it's a good start.
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), taking a page from a program originating in her home state of Washington, has successfully maneuvered an amendment through the Finance Committee that comes close to a public option while not quite getting there.
The program, which made its way into the finance committee bill by one vote, would affect those above the 133% of the federal poverty line (those below this threshold are currently covered by Medicaid) up to 200% of the FPL. This would include a family of four earning up to $44,000.
Rather than handing over the $6500 health insurance subsidy that these people would have qualified for under the initial Baucus plan, that money would be handed over to the states to create a negotiating fund to be controlled by the state.
Participants would not get their insurance from the state through some sort of state operated public insurance option. Rather, the state would combine all this federal subsidy money and use the clout of controlling this large sum of cash to negotiate with private insurers on behalf of participants in order to get them the best deal.
It’s something of a collective bargaining approach for those in a low income bracket, with the state functioning as the local labor negotiator.
I wouldn't call it "close to a public option." It's a good policy to bundle federal monies together and allow states to bargain with it, and it will allow for competition at that low end. Of course, insurers might have to raise prices on everyone else to compensate for either lower rates on that pool, or missing out on having them in their systems. But there are caps for that, theoretically, and I would have expected those insurers to push to the max of those caps anyway. So overall, this is a good policy, and I'm glad Cantwell got it through.
Among Democrats, only Blanche Lincoln voted against it.