Policy-ish

House Dems Want Medicare Rates For Public Plan

A key concession made by House negotiators to persuade conservative Democrats to support a public option as part of health overhaul is in jeopardy.

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hide captionSometimes mistaken for a health co-op.

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Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) wants the government to use Medicare rates to pay doctors and hospitals under a government-sponsored insurance alternative. That could scotch an agreement with so-called Blue Dog Democrats, who pushed for the feds to negotiate how much health-care providers would be paid by a public plan.

"I think most of us agree that we pay too much to providers now," Stark told reporters on a conference call, according to a report by Modern Healthcare. Doctors and hospitals probably wouldn't, having argued for a long time that Medicare is too stingy.

On the same call Rep. Xavier Becerra, another California Democrat, told reporters, "If one of your principles is to really drive costs down ... how you structure the public option will be an important consideration."

Stark, chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said the issue will have to be hammered out after legislators return to Washington next month. "I do think we'll stick with our rate structure," Stark said, according to Dow Jones. Of course, any House bill that passes would have to be meshed with a Senate bill in conference later on.

To that end, what does Stark think about co-ops, an alternative to the public option being advanced in the Senate? He's against them, calling co-ops a "sop" for a few senators from rural states, according to the Associated Press. C'mon, how do you really feel? "You might as well talk about unicorns," he said.

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