Liberals Look to Resurrect Public Option

Posted February 5, 2010 at 12:07pm

House and Senate liberals are going to meet next week to try to revive the public insurance option as part of health care reform, but the odds are still stacked against them.

About half of the House Democratic Caucus has signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) asking him to revive the public option to compete with private insurance companies. A public option, they contend, would save money and clearly be eligible for inclusion in a health care reconciliation bill, while firing up a dispirited party base before the November elections. A majority of the Senate has supported some form of public option, or the possibility of a Medicare buy-in for younger workers.

But reviving that debate may be easier said than done.

“Most folks in the Senate can count and know there’s no realistic shot of getting a public option through that can pass,” said a Senate Democratic aide.

Senate liberals, meanwhile, have already shown they are prepared to give up a public option in order to get a broader deal by voting for the original Senate-passed health care bill.

“It doesn’t have much traction and there is a broad sense across the Hill on the clearest route to get health care done — the House passing the Senate bill alongside a reconciliation sidecar,” the aide said. “Renewing old fights may get them a couple of headlines, but everyone, including most liberals, knows where this debate is heading and how to get health care done.”