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Schumer: Senate Health Bill May Include Public Option

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WASHINGTON BUREAU — Senate Democratic leaders still have a chance to put a public option provision into the Senate’s health reform bill, according to Sen. Charles Schumer.

“We’re close to getting the 60 votes we need to move forward,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

A public option provision would give individuals and others who use a proposed National Health Insurance Exchange system the opportunity to buy coverage from a government-run health plan.

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said Sunday that the majority leader could make a decision about a public provision option today.

A spokesman for Reid said the senator will announce his decision about a public option provision later this afternoon.

The House also appears to be close to unveiling its bill, and a vote on the House floor could come the week starting Nov. 6.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told members Friday to be available Nov. 7, and possibly the Monday and Tuesday before Veterans Day, to vote on health reform legislation.

The public option provision that would be in the Senate bill would allow states to opt out, according to Schumer.

The public option program that the government created would have to operate on a level playing field with private insurers, and it would have to meet the same state requirements and use the same negotiated provider rates, Schumer said.

In some states, especially where few insurers operate, creating a public option “is the only real way and best way to bring costs down,” Schumer said.

“Insurance companies won’t do it on their own,” he said.

The House version of a public option would require the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate rates with providers.

Senate leaders are still deciding what to do about a proposed long term care insurance program, where to set the minimum loss ratio for health plans that participate in the exchange system, and whether to modify the “Cadillac plan” excise tax, according to Ira Loss, an analyst at Washington Analysis, Washington.


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