The future of public option, at least in the Senate, appears grim. The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday rejected two proposals that would have created a public option.

“I don’t think the public option is dead even though there is a decent chance it won’t be in the Senate bill,” said Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), who is skeptical the government insurance alternative would be added when the measure hits the full chamber. Feingold is hopeful public option will be an integral part of health care when the House and Senate versions meet in conference committee. The Wisconsin Democrat told WIBA Thursday that without public option “it (health care reform) is close to not being worth it.”

House Member Steve Kagen (D-Appleton) is optimistic public option will be part of his chamber’s bill. Kagen, an allergist, joined a group of health care providers supporting health care reform. In Wednesday’s Organizing for America conference call, retired orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jan Sarnecki said red tape from insurance companies is driving up the cost of health care.  “I don’t see how the legislation…will address the excessive administrative fees without the public option,” said Sarnecki.

But red tape, on behalf of government, is why a Milwaukee based think tank opposes the proposal. MacIver Institute President Brett Healy believes the private sector is better poised to handle health care efficiently not “bureaucrats.”

Healy said private insurers would not be able to fairly compete with rates as the public option would be subsidized and small businesses would likely switch to government insurance because it’s cheaper.

The free market researcher admitted lawmakers can help improve health care such as mandating transparency of medical procedures and prescription drugs, as well as creating a consistent tax structure for Health Savings Accounts.

The debate has also brought assertions of insurers denying coverage, risking the health of customers, in order to maximize profits.

“This is probably a much better area for government to have a role, to make sure the private sector or others, are not gaming the system,” said Healey who believes government could play a stronger consumer protection role.

Meanwhile the Senate Finance Committee, the final panel to consider the bill, will vote next week  after finishing work into the early hours of Friday.

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