Liberal Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) on Wednesday expressed apprehension about the public option compromise stuck late Tuesday.
Feingold told reporters he was concerned that stripping healthcare reform legislation of the government-run public health insurance option could result in a giveaway of federal dollars to private insurers.
“I don’t want to create a system where creating a new alternative in the private industry area simply takes public subsidies and tax payer dollars and then finances profits for the insurance industry,” he said. “And I think that can be avoided.”
He added “I think the final bill may well avoid that but that’s an area of concern…I still think we should have a public option.”
Feingold said that the majority of Senate Democrats still believe the public option is a “good approach.”
The deal, struck late Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and nine other Senate Democrats, appears to involve the creation of a national health insurance plan provided by private nonprofits and established by the Office of Personnel Management.
The federal government would also allow people over the age of 55 to buy into Medicare. Currently, only people over 65 are eligible for the program. Feingold said he strongly supports the extension.
“I’m not happy with everything that’s being proposed. I’m opposed to getting rid of the public option but I’m amazed at the breadth of enthusiasm from many groups , especially progressive groups, for this exciting expansion of Medicare, which I think is long overdue,” he said.
Reid and other Senate Democrats have not provided the details of the plan.
Feingold said he would like to see the Congressional Budget Office score the plan “before I can feel confident that this will work.”
The senator, however, said “I do think that there is psychological momentum being created by the fact that these discussions occurred. I think they were an important thing to have happen.”