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Confusion Over ‘Deal’ Continues

Rockefeller indicated that liberals were dubious of a state-based public option trigger, but that sweeping national insurance regulations — such as restrictions on profit margins — could be in the works, something he said might obviate the need for a public option.

“The so-called state based public option is not clear to some of us exactly what that means,” Rockefeller said. “There were some people there who said you can do that with a relatively small population base. There are others like myself who aren’t so sure about that. But in any event, if we get certain things done in health insurance regulation, none of that will make any difference because it will be stronger than the public option so far.”

However, Rockefeller declined to give details, given that Reid has asked Members to keep quiet until he has time to review and possibly tweak the proposal they sent to the CBO.

While the group of five liberals and five moderates quibbled over their own product, other wavering Senators appeared skeptical of what they know of the deal.

Asked whether the confusion over a public option was more semantics than policy-driven, Harkin quipped, “What’s in a name?”

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), who has threatened to filibuster the final bill if a public option — triggered or not — is included, cited several possible concerns with the hybrid plan

“The problem is that I’ve heard about three or four different versions of it,” Lieberman said. “I’ve been very clear for months that I’m for health care reform. But I don’t want us, as part of it, to create what I consider to be an unnecessary and costly government-run insurance option. And that includes one that would be triggered.”

“It sounded last night from the proposals being discussed that they met that test — that the public option was basically gone,” Lieberman continued. “But then this morning the papers were saying it’s still in. So, I’ve got to wait and see.”

Lieberman suggested he was open to creating a national marketplace of health insurance plans similar to what is available to federal employees that would be administered by the OPM.

On the possible proposal to increase access to Medicare by allowing individuals ages 55 to 64 to buy into the program, Lieberman indicated it depends on how it is structured. “It’s an interesting idea, but a lot of questions have to be asked about it,” he said.

Another potential swing vote, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), has indicated the Medicare buy-in proposal may be a non-starter with her.

Questions around the proposal continued Wednesday night at a special Democratic caucus called to explain the details of the potential compromise. A few rounds of applause could be heard coming from the Lyndon B. Johnson Room, where the closed-door session was held, and one Democrat described the discussion as a cheerleading session.

“There was no explanation,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said after the caucus. “It was sort of ‘go team go.’ You’ve been there, done that.”

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