PUBLIC OPTION SAVES A LOT OF MONEY…. TNR‘s Jonathan Cohn has a nice scoop, which offers good news to those of us who want to see a public option included in health care reform.

According to a pair of Capitol Hill sources, preliminary estimates from the Congressional Budget Office suggest that a strong public option — the kind that the House of Representatives is putting in its reform bill — should net somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 billion in savings over ten years.

The sources cautioned that these were only the preliminary estimates, based on previous discussions — that CBO had not yet issued final scoring on language in the actual bill. But the sources felt the final estimate would likely be close.

One of the biggest concerns for policymakers is making the reform package affordable. If a CBO score shows a public option creating $150 billion in savings over 10 years, it’s a very big deal, and will be hard for even Blue Dogs to overlook.

Indeed, word of this comes just as Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), a member of the Blue Dog Caucus, announced that she’ll support a public option as part of reform. Sanchez told MSNBC this morning, “I am one of those people who believes that we should be required to have a public option because it will bring the costs of health care down.”

Here’s hoping she isn’t the last “centrist” Democrat to come to this conclusion.

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.