*Nelson being Nelson

NELSON BEING NELSON…. It’s a good thing health care is likely to pass through the reconciliation process. Nelson will have less of a chance to make the reform effort worse.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Friday that he will oppose legislation that would give people the option of a public health insurance plan. The move puts him on the opposite side of two-thirds of Americans.

A poll released this week by Consumer Reports National Research Center showed that 66 percent of Americans back the creation of a public health plan that would compete with private plans. Nelson, in comments made to CQ, joins the 16 percent of poll respondents who said they oppose the plan.

Nelson’s problem, he told CQ, is that the public plan would be too attractive and would hurt the private insurance plans. “At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game,” Nelson said. Including a public option in a health plan, he said, was a “deal breaker.”

Instead, Nelson, the Senate’s most conservative Democrat, intends to put together “coalition of like-minded centrists opposed to the creation of a public plan,” in order to undermine the proposal supported by President Obama and a whole lot of Senate Democrats.

What I find interesting about this, though, is that Nelson worries that the public option would be too popular. The goal, according to Nelson’s approach, has less to do with improving the system, and more to do with making sure insurance companies — the ones whose services Americans may not like — are protected.

Let’s be clear about this. If the reform effort includes a public plan, Nelson is concerned that it will do such a good job of offering quality care at a lower cost that Americans might be inclined to move away from a system that has screwed them over for many years.

This would be a bad thing, says Nelson.

There’s a very good reason reconciliation was included in the process. Can a quality bill pass this fall on an up-or-down vote? Yes. Can it get 60 votes? Probably not.