Colorado delegates’ views mixed on public option

President Obama wants an up-or-down vote on a health care package that might contain a public option and possibly some Republican suggestions.

Obama said he will do everything in his power to make the case for reform in the coming weeks, during which he asked that congressional leaders complete work and schedule votes.

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., moved before a final bill takes shape. He and 61 other members of the House introduced a stand-alone measure that would give the Department of Health and Human Services the ability to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for Medicare, offering the opportunity to save taxpayers $156 billion over 10 years, Salazar said in a statement.

“It is common sense that we can save seniors and taxpayers money by putting the federal government’s purchasing power to work,” Salazar said.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said Wednesday he’d like to see an up-or-down vote on a public option, for which he had sought a vote under the rules of reconciliation, a parliamentary provision that allows the Senate to act on a majority vote.

More than 50 senators have signed onto the public option at one time or another, Bennet said.

Still, he said, “I don’t know what the outcome would be.”

Exactly how a public option would operate remains sketchy, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said.

Although Bennet’s letter urging a reconciliation vote on the public option has the signatures of 36 senators, Udall’s office said Bennet’s letter was vague.

Udall supports a public option with negotiated rates and “would be pleased to see it in a health care reform package,” Udall’s office said.

Had Bennet’s letter “said a public option based on negotiated rates and articulated that the reconciliation process in question was not starting over, but instead was to be used to supplement the Senate bill, Sen. Udall would have signed it,” the statement said.

Obama in his overview of proposals compiled for the health care summit listed medical-liability reform, the extension of dependent coverage to age 26 and incentives that would allow premiums to vary based on participation in proven employer wellness programs.

Udall said he was pleased to see some Republican contributions, such as stronger actions to go after fraud and abuse and more funding to support state efforts to improve the medical-malpractice system.


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