As the Senate Finance Committee heads for a make-or-break attempt at a health overhaul bill next month, Democratic Chairman Max Baucus of Montana likes to repeat his mantra that "everything's on the table" for discussion.
But pressed by a reporter at a breakfast session Thursday, Baucus conceded that there's at least one major proposal that's not: Single-payer, which involves having the government pay all health bills, eliminating the role of private insurance.
"That's the only thing that's not," Baucus said, "because it cannot pass. And I don't know two or three members of Congress who privately, honestly tell you that it can pass."
But Baucus, who directed Capitol Police to arrest single-payer supporters who launched loud protests at his last two public hearings on a health overhaul, didn't want that to be his last word on the subject.
Today, he all but pleaded with single-payer advocates to meet him half-way.
"We can reach a very good result, where the rate of increase in health care costs is dramatically coming down. That is huge," he said. "And second, everybody's going to have health insurance. That's not a bad result. And third, everybody's going to have quality health insurance. That's not a bad result."
In fact, said Baucus, an overhauled U.S. system could focus more on quality than the single-payer systems in many countries. He said officials from the Netherlands visited recently and were impressed at the health care delivery system changes senators are considering.
Of course the Netherlands doesn't actually have a single-payer system. Oh well.