Yesterday, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) held a press conference to unveil a few details of the Senate’s merged comprehensive health care bill. Earlier in the day Reid sent a few variations of the comprehensive bill to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to be scored, so his press conference lacked a discussion of many of the details contained in the legislation.
However, the one detail that has been receiving attention is Reid’s inclusion of the “opt-out public option” in the bill. The legislation would create a government-run insurance company through which unemployed individuals in a health care exchange could buy health coverage. The public plan would be a national plan, and under Reid’s proposal, a state could “opt-out” of offering the public plan in their insurance exchange. Reid noted that every version of his health care bill forwarded to CBO contained this language.
The opt-out plan is different than some of the other public plan proposals currently being considered. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) has been advocating for a state “opt-in” plan, where states could opt to offer the public plan in their exchange instead of it automatically being an option. The Reid bill also does not have a “trigger”, which had been advocated for by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). If a series of insurance reforms and goals had not been met by a certain year, a public insurance plan would be triggered into existence. Reid claimed at the press conference that the opt-out plan received the most support in his conversation with Senators over the weekend.
However, news reports indicate that a bill with an opt-out plan does not necessarily have the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster of the bill. Most estimates place the vote count as high as 58. Today, the Democratic caucus is expected to review the bill variations at their caucus meeting and will wait to set a deadline for votes until CBO returns with scores for the proposals.
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