Report: Senate Dems reach deal to drop public option

Details of the agreement are sketchy, but it seems that the plan for a government-run insurer is dead in the Senate

Published December 9, 2009 1:50AM (EST)

Thus far, the public option has had more lives than a cat -- every time it's been declared dead, it's been reborn not long after. But now, it may really be on the way out.

The Associated Press is reporting that Democratic senators have reached a deal on their version of healthcare reform legislation. Under the agreement, according to the AP, the plan to create a government-run insurer would be dropped from the bill.

Details are very sketchy at the moment, but a couple replacements for the public option have been under discussion recently. One would let some Americans buy new plans that would be supervised by the Office of Personnel Management, which is responsible for the health benefits given to federal government employees. The other is an expansion of Medicare, opening the program up so that people who are 55 and older could buy into the program, which is usually restricted to those age 65 and up.

Update: It does seem like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to hang on at least to the semantics of "public option." As before, the detaisl of the deal aren't very clear, but it does still appear that the public option as we've been discussing it for months now is out. Still, Reid says, in a statement just released, that it's in. He's also denied the AP report.

The full statement:

This has been a long journey. We have confronted many hurdles, and tonight I believe we have overcome yet another one.

I asked Senators Schumer and Pryor to work with some of the most moderate and most progressive members of our diverse caucus, and tonight they have come to a consensus.


It is a consensus that includes a public option and will help ensure the American people win in two ways: one, insurance companies will face more competition, and two, the American people will have more choices.


I know not all 10 Senators in the room agree on every single detail of this, nor will all 60 members of my caucus. But I know we all appreciate the hard work that these progressives and moderates have done to move this historic debate forward.

I want to thank Senators Schumer, Pryor, Brown, Carper, Feingold, Harkin, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson and Rockefeller for working together for the greater good and never losing sight of our shared goal: making it possible for every American to afford to live a healthy life.

As is long-standing practice, we do not disclose details of any proposal before the Congressional Budget Office has a chance to evaluate it. We will wait for that to happen, but in the meantime, tonight we are confident.

Update 2: Some aides to senior Senate Democrats are telling Salon that there's some confusion among staffers (and possibly lawmakers) over exactly what the deal that's been reached looks like. Apparently only the 10 Democratic senators involved in the talks know for sure, at least as of late Tuesday night. One senior Democratic aide says the deal will still preserve some form of public plan, though it's significantly weaker than what was in the bill before the negotiations started.

Check back Wednesday morning for more details.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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