Udall will push for public option, but at local level, not national

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said he is open to advancing a measure that would establish public-option, health-insurance providers in high-cost areas or regions deemed lacking in competition.

The public option he envisions wouldn’t be a nationwide provider, but would be established to provide local competition, Udall said in a visit Wednesday to Grand Junction.

Udall is not quite as far along as his colleague, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who earlier this week asked that the Senate move forward on a public option, he said. Bennet’s letter was signed by nine other senators, all Democrats, but not by Udall.

Udall and Bennet envision a public option that would negotiate rates with local health care providers, Udall and a spokesman for Bennet said. Negotiating rates with local health care providers would distinguish the public option the Colorado senators favor from the familiar Medicare program, which establishes rates in Washington, D.C., by which it reimburses providers.

Congress needs to act on health care to reduce costs to the federal treasury and to businesses, Udall said.

Without committing to using reconciliation to advance the bill, Udall said the measure needs to be pushed ahead.

“The status quo is not defensible,” he said.

Reconciliation is a parliamentary measure that allows the Senate to act on budget measures without garnering the 60 votes needed to shut off debate.

The election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate from Massachusetts wasn’t a demand by voters that Congress stop health care legislation, Udall said. It underscored a need to get costs under control and deal with issues such as denials of coverage because of pre-existing conditions, he said.

Udall spoke during a swing through the Western Slope, where he also met with law enforcement officials at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation division in Grand Junction.

Officials stressed to him they needed federal grant money with fewer strings, allowing them to use the money as they see fit in their communities, Udall said.


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