A new public option plan?

One senator is proposing a modified public option as a compromise -- but it may make everyone unhappy

By Alex Koppelman

Published October 1, 2009 2:45PM (EDT)

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., has never been a high-profile figure in Washington. But he's out of Joe Biden's shadow now, and he's reportedly working on healthcare reform in a way that could end up making him an influential player in the debate.

Politico reports Thursday that Carper has been working on a proposal for a modified public option, one that would give states the choice of creating their own government-run insurance provider instead of having the federal government operate one large entity.

"Carper has buttonholed President Barack Obama several times, shopped a one-page explainer to his Finance Committee colleagues, and huddled with [Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine]," Politico reports. "He began formulating his plan several weeks ago, and has been quietly talking it up since then."

With two public option plans having gone down to defeat in the Senate Finance Committee this week, a compromise like Carper's might be the best shot to include some form of the idea in the final reform legislation. Thus far, though, the problem with compromise solutions like this one -- like North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad's idea for co-ops -- has been that no one, not liberal Democrats who support a robust public option, not their more moderate colleagues, not the potential Republican swing votes, has been happy with them. Seems like that may be where Carper's plan is heading, too.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform Thomas R. Carper D-del.