The current state of health reform legislation indicates that a government-run or “public option” will be included, with the proviso that states will be allowed to “opt out,” according to Senate majority leader Harry Reid. The public option has been the sticking point in Democratic efforts to combine competing versions of the health care bill.
Proponents of the government plan have been insisting that it be made part of the bill before it is brought to the Senate floor, which would mean that opponents would require 60 votes in order to remove it. Those against the public option maintain that supporters should be forced to rally 60 votes in order to insert it later. Either scenario would be a major hurdle.
“I’ve concluded, with the support of the White House, Senators Dodd and Baucus, that the best way to move forward is to include a public option with the opt-out provision for states,” explained Reid. “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 if they so choose. I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system.”
Reid said he felt confident that Democrats would remain united behind a bill that included the right of states to opt out. Some on Capital Hill question whether he is right. Among Democrats who have expressed reservations about a public option are Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.