Yahoo! News

Specter Open To Public Health Plan

Yahoo! News — Monday, May 11, 2009

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — Sen. Arlen Specter says he's open to a government health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers to cover middle-class Americans, a policy reversal for the newest Democrat.

Specter had upset many in his new party with his opposition to the public plan, which is perhaps the most controversial component of the health reform debate in Congress.

But in a letter to the progressive group Health Care for America Now, Specter said he looks forward to "discussing and considering" the issue. He said a starting point could be a proposal by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that seeks to maintain a level playing field between the private and public sector.

The Pennsylvania lawmaker wrote the letter Friday in response to a survey sent by the organization.

Republicans and even some conservative Democrats strongly oppose a public plan, contending it would drive private insurance companies out of business. President Barack Obama and other Democrats support it. The views of moderates such as Specter could be key to determining whether such a plan would be included in health overhaul legislation being worked on by Congress.

Late last month, Specter severed his decades-long tie with the Republican Party to become a Democrat. He's up for a sixth term in 2010.

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