Washington Report

Senate Healthcare Reform Bill Gives Opt-Out Option

HighEndCare

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) announced this week that the Senate’s impending healthcare reform bill will indeed include a public option—sort of. Individual states will have the ability to opt out of having a government-run program. It’s a victory for liberals that also will soothe skittish Democrats who were wary of supporting a robust public option.

“The public option is not a silver bullet, [but] I believe it’s an important way to ensure competition and to level the playing field for patients with the insurance industry,” Reid said. “Under this concept, states will be able to decide what works for them.” He also said that the bill would include a provision for healthcare cooperatives.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, the moderate Maine Republican whose support the Obama administration so arduously courted, is “deeply disappointed” by Reid’s decision.

“I still believe that a fallback, safety net plan, to be triggered and available immediately in states where insurance companies fail to offer plans that meet the standards of affordability, could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate,” Snowe said.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Reid indicated that he’s ready to move forward without Republicans, if necessary, but also couldn’t confirm that he has the required 60 votes to get the bill through the Senate and prevent a filibuster. In addition, Democrat-turned-Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut announced on Tuesday that he won’t vote for a bill with a public option, telling the Associated Press he’s worried it would be too costly for taxpayers and drive up insurance premiums. Lieberman’s opposition could be a big problem because his vote is needed to reach the magic number of 60.

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