Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says moderate and progressive Democrats have worked out an agreement on the “public option” health plan issue.
Reid, D-Nev., who introduced H.R. 3950, the main Senate health bill, announced the deal Tuesday evening at a brief press appearance. The deal was negotiated by a group of senators led by Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and a second group of senators led by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
“We have an agreement,” Reid said.
Senate Democrats will send an official description of the deal to the Congressional Budget Office for budget “scoring” Wednesday, and they will not release details about the proposal until they have the CBO score, Reid said.
“We want to know the score before we give all the details even to our own members,” Reid said.
Reid created H.R. 3950, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bill, by melding bills developed by the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The HELP Committee and Senate progressives have pushed for creation of a government-run public option plan. Finance Committee are opposing the idea of a public option plan and looking for an alternative.
The Associated Press is saying that the Democrats will drop the public option plan concept from their bill, but Reid has told Reuters that reports of the public option concept being dropped are false.
The compromise apparently calls for replacing the public option plan proposal with a plan similar to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The Office of Personnel Management would try to provide the benefits by awarding contracts to private insurers, and OPM would set up a true government-run plan only if insurers failed to provide acceptable plans, according to press reports.
Earlier in the evening, during another brief press appearance, Reid said he believes the Senate can pass a bill by the end of the year, and he emphasized the need for action.
“Does anyone here honestly believe that doing nothing is the right think?” Reid asked.
In response to a question about disagreements between moderate Democrats and progressive Democrats, Reid said the purpose of legislation is to build a consensus.
“It’s not often that you have a piece of legislation that is perfect,” Reid said. “But we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”