JAY ROCKEFELLER Diagnosing a Sick System

A Key Player on Health-Care Reform

Senator Jay Rockefeller discusses the progress of the health care reform bill.
Friday, October 16, 2009

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) has been a passionate, and often blunt, voice for health-care reform for nearly four decades, starting when, as a young Vista volunteer, he took children to the dentist in the rural hills of Appalachia. A scion of American wealth and royalty, having grown up in New York and attending Harvard, Rockefeller said he went to West Virginia in search of his place in the world and never left the state.

Today, he finds himself in a pivotal role on the issue: a member of the Finance Committee, which just reported out its health-care bill; chairman of the Commerce Committee, which has investigated what he sees as the "greedy" practices of insurance companies; and a member of the House-Senate conference that will ultimately hammer out a final bill.

He is not known as a Senate show horse, but in recent months Rockefeller has staked out the left flank on health-care reform, and he has emotionally made the case on behalf of his coal mining state, among the poorest in the nation. He says he sees no alternative to offering a government-sponsored insurance plan, or public option, to ensure that private companies don't have a pricey monopoly. He has promised a floor fight on the matter if one is required.

"You might say there are all kinds of things that could be a deal-breaker for me, but I want to see health care passed. So I'll be nasty and I'll be nice and all kinds of things, but I want a bill," he said in a interview this week in his Senate office, where he did not hide disdain for the insurance industry.

Watch the entire interview at www.washingtonpost.com/voices-of-power/.

-- Lois Romano

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