Monday, October 26, 2009

BREAKING! Senate bill will include a public option

Harry Reid announced just minutes ago that he will be bringing the public option to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Here is what we know from his prepared remarks and from answers at the brief news conference that followed his remarks.

The Senate bill with a public option has been sent to the CBO for scoring today. There had been reports that an alternative version, one with triggers, would be sent as well. Reid said this was not the case.

Reid said that states had until 2014 to opt out of the public option program. Since that program is not set to be up and running until 2013, that would give states a full year to opt out.

However, and this is a BIG however, Reid said that states had until 2014 to opt out. Does that mean states can opt out before 2014, and before the public option starts? If so, this would be a real blow for a robust public option. The devil, as always, is in the details.

Here are Reid's prepared remarks:

The last two weeks have been a great opportunity to work with the White House, Senators Baucus and Dodd, and members of our Caucus on this critical issue of reforming our health insurance system.

We have had productive, meaningful discussions about how to craft the strongest bill that can gain the 60 votes necessary to move forward in the Senate.

I feel good about progress we have made within our caucus and with the White House, and we are all optimistic about reform because of the unprecedented momentum that exists.

I am well aware that the issue of the public option has been a source of great discussion in recent weeks. I have always been a strong supporter of the public option.

While the public option is not a silver bullet, I believe it is an impor ant way to ensure competition and to level the playing field for patients.

As we’ve gone through this process, I’ve concluded, with the support of the White House and Senators Baucus and Dodd, that the best way forward is to include a public option with an opt-out provision for states.

Under this concept, states will be able to determine whether the public option works well for them and will have the ability to opt-out.

I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system. It will protect consumers, keep insurers honest and ensure competition and that’s why we intend to include it on the bill that will be submitted to the Senate for consideration.

We have spent countless hours over the last few days in consultation with Senators who have shown a genuine desire to see reform succeed, and I believe there is strong consensus to move forward in this direction.

Today’s developments bring us another step closer to achieving our goal of passing a bill this year that lowers costs, preserves choice, creates competition and improves quality of care.

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