Democratic Senate leaders and representatives from the White House are meeting on the public option today at 5pm. I feel dirty linking them, but according is Politico, they are leaning toward including the opt-out in the merged Senate health care bill:
Two Democratic senators said Thursday that they have been told negotiators are zeroing in on creating a national government health plan, but allowing states to drop out of it or choose a different competitor to private insurance.
"I keep hearing there is a lot of leaning toward some sort of national public option, unfortunately, from my standpoint," said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a key swing vote on health reform. "I still believe a state-based approach is the way in which to go. So I'm not being shy about making that point."
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said he has been told the same regarding the direction of the talks, but was assured the government plan would not be tied to Medicare rates.
If this is true, then the fight is no longer over whether or not there will be a public option, but what kind of public option there will be. Given how many times we were told the public option was dead, that would be a truly remarkable victory for progressives.
Then again, this so-called public option might just be a co-op. Tom Carper:
"I think at the end of the day there will be a national plan probably put together not by the federal government but by a non-profit board with some seed money from the federal government that states would initially participate in because of lack of affordability. The question is should there be an opportunity for states to opt out later on and if so, within a year, within two years, within three years?"
Either way, here is a quick look at the state of play for the public option in the Senate:
This means that the number of obstacles to including a public option in the Senate bill, and thus the bill overall, is down to two or three, depending on Blanche Lincoln.
We are on the brink of victory in the public option campaign. We only need two or three more Senate votes on cloture, and we have it. Very, very close now.