HAGAN HERO?…. Just last week, freshman Sen. Kay Hagan (D) of North Carolina stood as a possible obstacle to meaningful health care reform. Hagan publicly expressed reservations about a public option, and given the current makeup of the Senate HELP Committee, that was a real problem.

Brian Beutler explained last week, “[W]ith a narrow Democratic majority on the committee and its chairman, Ted Kennedy, in poor health, [Hagan’s] vote is crucial to moving the bill forward — something the panel’s been working toward for days now without success.”

A few days ago, though, the HELP Committee unveiled a strong proposal, which included a public option, and which enjoys the support of the committee’s Democrats — including Hagan.

On Thursday, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) offered her support for the health care overhaul proposal put forth by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, of which she is a member. In the process, she issued a statement that removed any doubt about where she stands on a publicly run insurance option.

“My colleagues and I on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have been working on a plan to reform the health care system in this country,” Hagan’s statement read. “We have crafted a plan that will stabilize health care costs and includes a Community Health Insurance Option, which I support. It is a backstop option for people without access to affordable coverage. Health care providers will not be required to participate, payment rates will be set in a competitive fashion, and the community health insurance option will compete on a level playing field with private health insurance plans in the gateway.”

The public plan portion of the proposal, known as the Community Health Insurance Option, would be overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, but follow the rules set forth by the private market. At the same time, it would lower the costs of health care by pooling the purchasing powers of its participants and it would drastically lower the administrative costs customary to private providers. In short, one source on the committee said, it is the robust proposal that progressive wanted. And now Hagan, as her office confirmed to the Huffington Post, supports it.

It’s possible Hagan was swayed by public pressure — MoveOn.org ran ads in North Carolina, urging the senator to support a public option — or perhaps she was persuaded by her colleagues to do the right thing.

Either way, it’s an encouraging development to have one more Democratic centrist in the Senate on board with a public plan.

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.