Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TOP STORY >> Lincoln explains her health-care vote

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) says her vote Saturday to open debate on health-care reform was not a vote for the bill as it now stands, but instead was better than doing nothing.

Most Arkansans who want some change to the health-care system were her motivation, she said, noting that she wants to see coverage expanded, costs reduced and more stability by encouraging competition and choice in the marketplace.

The bill she helped pass in the Senate Finance Committee last month is more what she would like to see in the legislation before she’ll vote for it.

“The public option is getting much more attention than it deserves,” she said, adding that cost and accessibility of health care in a cost-contained bill are “critical things that need to be added over the next several weeks.”

To expand affordable coverage, she said she wants exchanges. “When the federal government pools eight million…employees, there are competing plans that we can choose from,” she said in the Saturday conference call with reporters. “Our objective is to create that for small employers,” she said.

She said she will not help pass the legislation if it includes a public option, but she doesn’t want insurance companies to be allowed to “bully” their customers.

By voting to open debate, she said that it’s not her last chance to influence the bill. “(I’m) only accountable to my constituents,” she said in response to what she described as out-of-state interests who want the vote to influence next year’s election.

She said she expects debate on the health-care bill to start soon after Thanksgiving and doesn’t see the bill passing the Senate before the New Year.

“I think it’s going to be difficult,” she said, adding that she doesn’t believe the House bill could get passed in the Senate.

She acknowledged that President Barack Obama is anxious to see the passage of a bill, but she thinks he should be more involved.

“I think it would be wise for the president to weigh in,” she said.

Lincoln said after the health-care legislation is dealt with, she wants to take action to help the 100,000 Arkansans who have recently lost their jobs.

– Aliya Feldman