I just watched an interesting public option colloquy of sorts between Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) on the one hand and, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and a newly in-the-mix Susan Collins (R-ME) on the other. It was the first time I’ve seen a senator call out his colleagues, however politely, on their misrepresentations of the public option.
The trio spoke at an event in support of a cost containment amendment to the health care bill that they hope to introduce shortly. About 15 minutes in, though, Specter, who’s tacked significantly to the left since he switched into the Democratic party, put his colleagues on the spot about their public option opposition.
“I continue to support a robust public option,” Specter said. “There are differences on that, and my two colleagues have expressed their own reservations.”
“This bill may be so good, look so good, to Senator Lieberman that he may be willing to make some accommodations.”
Lieberman and Collins both demurred.“I do not support…a government owned, government run insurance company,” Collins said.
“I have only to look at the experience of my own state in establishing a government run plan to see the problems that arise.”
Collins was referring to the Dirigo health agency, which provides subsidized insurance to poor people in Maine who don’t quite qualify for Medicaid.
“I think we have learned a lot from the Maine plan,” Specter retorted. “We know what not to do. We’re not going to adopt a Maine plan. That experience will stand us in good stead. We won’t make the same mistake.”
Specter went on: “And when Senator Lieberman talks about single payer, I think he’s putting his finger on the pulse of it. That’s what people have concluded [but] the public option isn’t single payer, and it is not going to add to the deficit, it’s going to be a level playing field. So I would like everyone to read the fine print and [for my colleagues] to re-read the fine print.”