REID MOVES FORWARD ON PUBLIC OPTION…. As expected, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hosted a brief press conference this afternoon and announced that there will, in fact, be a public option in the Senate health care bill, though it will give states the opportunity to opt-out of the plan. His prepared statement read:
“The last two weeks have been a great opportunity to work with the White House, Senators Baucus and Dodd, and members of our Caucus on this critical issue of reforming our health insurance system.
“We have had productive, meaningful discussions about how to craft the strongest bill that can gain the 60 votes necessary to move forward in the Senate.
“I feel good about progress we have made within our caucus and with the White House, and we are all optimistic about reform because of the unprecedented momentum that exists.
“I am well aware that the issue of the public option has been a source of great discussion in recent weeks. I have always been a strong supporter of the public option.
“While the public option is not a silver bullet, I believe it is an important way to ensure competition and to level the playing field for patients.
“As we’ve gone through this process, I’ve concluded, with the support of the White House and Senators Baucus and Dodd, that the best way forward is to include a public option with an opt-out provision for states.
“Under this concept, states will be able to determine whether the public option works well for them and will have the ability to opt-out.
“I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system. It will protect consumers, keep insurers honest and ensure competition and that’s why we intend to include it on the bill that will be submitted to the Senate for consideration.
“We have spent countless hours over the last few days in consultation with Senators who have shown a genuine desire to see reform succeed, and I believe there is strong consensus to move forward in this direction.
“Today’s developments bring us another step closer to achieving our goal of passing a bill this year that lowers costs, preserves choice, creates competition and improves quality of care.”
Reid noted that Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) may not support a bill with a public option, but he hopes she’ll “come back” to the fold on the final bill.
He went on to say that it is this bill that will be sent to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring, and while there’s been ample speculation about a bill with a p.o. trigger, Reid won’t get a CBO score on that approach.
At this point, leadership staffers are now expected to “huddle with Democratic Senate aides to explain” exactly what the merged bill will offer. “The question-and-answer session will allow staffers to get a clear sense of what is in the bill, and particularly detail the way the public option opt-out will work. Our source said this will help on-the-fence senators start making up their mind.”