WHITE HOUSE HEARTS HELP BILL…. It looks like the health care reform plan crafted by Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has at least one important fan: President Obama.

The White House issued this statement this morning.

“Today the Senate HELP committee has produced legislation that lowers costs, protects choice of doctors and plans and assures quality and affordable health care for Americans. The Congressional Budget Office has now issued a more complete review of this bill, concluding that it will cost less and cover more Americans than originally estimated. It also contains provisions that will protect the coverage Americans get at work. When merged with the Senate Finance Committee’s companion pieces, the Senate will be prepared to vote for health reform legislation that does not add to the deficit, reduces health care costs and covers 97% of Americans.

“The HELP Committee legislation reflects many of the principles I’ve laid out, such as reforms that will prohibit insurance companies from refusing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and the concept of insurance exchanges where individuals can find affordable coverage if they lose their jobs, move or get sick. Such a marketplace would allow families and some small businesses the benefit of one-stop-shopping for their health care coverage and enable them to compare price and quality and pick the plan that best suits their needs.

“Among the choices that would be available in the exchange would be a public health insurance option. The public option would make health care affordable by increasing competition, providing more choices and keeping the insurance companies honest.

“The legislation also improves the quality of patient care, improves safety for patients and strengthens the commitment to preventive health care — preventing people from getting sick in the first place.”

Time will tell what’s going to happen with the various provisions, but it’s always encouraging when the White House reiterates its support for a public option.

As for the CBO numbers, Jonathan Cohn added this morning that there’s still some confusion out there about the cost and coverage associated with the HELP Committee’s plan, stemming from the fact that the proposal doesn’t factor in measures that fall outside the committee’s jurisdiction.

Bottom line: “Covering 95 percent of residents — and 97 percent of legal residents — through a program that will require outlays of around $1 to $1.3 trillion but should, if fully offset, not inflate the deficit by a dime.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.