But what kind of public option is Reid promising?

The majority leader's office adds some wiggle room to his pledge on the public option

By Alex Koppelman

Published October 2, 2009 2:25PM (EDT)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is sticking by the promise he made Thursday that the healthcare reform bill that goes to President Obama's desk will include a public option. Sort of.

Reid's staff isn't backing off the pledge entirely, but in a statement they're putting out now, they're trying to give him some wiggle room by saying there's no single definiton of "public option."

"Sen. Reid believes that health insurance reform must include a mechanism to keep insurers honest, create competition and keep costs down," the statement says. "He feels that the public option is the best way to do that. While we don't know exactly what that option will look like, Sen. Reid, working with President Obama, will ensure that whatever is included in the final bill does just that."

That could mean a trigger plan, in which the government-run insurance provider wouldn't launch unless private insurers fail to meet certain goals within a given time frame. Or it could mean something like, for instance, an amendment passed by the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, a watered-down version that would allow the states to set up their own insurers rather than having one overarching federal option. Either way, progressives aren't likely to be happy, and conservatives aren't going to like it, either.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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