What Does Snowe Want Now?

by Suzy Khimm | October 13, 2009

As the only Republican who supported Baucus's bill, Olympia Snowe will wield considerable leverage as the negotiations move out of committee, to the Senate floor and, eventually, into conference committee with the House. As she said during the proceedings today, "My vote today is my vote today and it doesn't forecast what my vote will be tomorrow."

So what will Snowe be pushing for in the final Senate bill? In a scrum with reporters today immediately after the historic vote, she underscored a few key provisions:

Prioritize affordability: Snowe called affordability her "first and foremost goal" going forward. What does this mean? She cited her work with Schumer to loosen the individual mandate in the absence of greater subsidies, which she declined to lobby for. One idea she floated today: "maybe lower the actuarial value" of insurance--which roughly means to scale back the benefits that insurers will be required to offer in the exchange, i.e. skimpier benefits to bring down the price tag. She also mentioned the coverage of "young invincibles"--which could mean that she'll defend the exemption that the Baucus bill gives young people under 25, who can buy catastrophic coverage instead of comprehensive plans.

Strengthen the health insurance exchanges: Snowe said that it was critical to make the exchange "a powerful force," complimenting her colleague Ron Wyden's desire to open up the exchanges. She siad it was important "to bring in more small businesses" into the exchange, creating a bigger pool that could bring costs down for the other participants. "The more the merrier," she summed up. A strong exchange would also help amplify the positive, cost-saving impact of a public option, should one come to be included. Which brings us to...

Push for the trigger alternative. Yes, she's still all for it. She reiterated that she wasn't inclined to support the proprosed state "opt-out" option and emphasized the importance of thinking of a government-run alternative as a genuine "back-up" plan for states.

Snowe says that she has yet to confer with the Democratic leadership about her expectations going forward. But I'd expect Snowe to remain as independent and resolute about her priorities as she's been up until now. 

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