October 25th, 2009
05:14 PM ET
13 years ago

Aide: Reid likely to include public option in Senate health care bill

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/25/art.reid1015.gi.jpg caption="A senior aide tells CNN that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is likely to include an 'opt out' version of the public insurance option in the Senate health care bill Reid is currently crafting."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is poised to proceed with plans to introduce a Senate health care bill with a public health insurance option that would allow states to opt out, a senior aide to Reid told
CNN on Sunday.

The aide, who did not want to be quoted by name when talking about private deliberations, said a final decision would be made Monday.

Reid is likely to make the move without having firm commitments of support from 60 senators, the number needed to break a filibuster, according to the aide. Describing the move as a "risky strategy," the aide said Reid believes including the public option is the right approach, and that the senator is "cautiously optimistic he can get the votes necessary."

The Senate fate of any bill with a public option is unclear, due to unanimous Republican opposition and concerns by some conservative and moderate Democrats.

A public option was considered virtually dead a few weeks ago, but Reid revived it last week by canvassing support for a plan that includes the public option while allowing states to opt out.

According to Reid's aide, the Nevada senator hopes to finalize the bill by Monday afternoon to send to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring - an analysis of what it will cost. Reid then would present the bill to all Senate Democrats at their weekly policy lunch on Tuesday, the aide said.

Several Democratic sources acknowledged to CNN that Reid's decision to include a public option in the Senate health care bill reflects a desire to calm an increasingly angry Democratic base. According to the Democratic sources, the party's base is furious with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats for moving slower than desired on issues such as closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and reversing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gay soldiers.

Even if the Senate votes to drop the public option, Reid could still argue he tried to get it included, the sources noted.

Republicans oppose any form of public option, contending it would drive private insurers from the market and lead to an eventual government takeover of the health care system.

"I think 100 percent of Republicans have indicated they don't think having the government in the insurance business is a good idea," Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the chamber's top-ranking Republican, said Sunday on the ABC program "This Week."

On the same show, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri predicted the Senate will end up considering several versions of a public option during its upcoming debate on a health care bill.

"I think what we're going to end up with is having votes on a number of choices," McCaskill said.

Choices would include giving states the ability to opt out of a national not-for-profit public option, or reversing that dynamic by allowing states the choice of opting in to such a program, she said.

Another alternative would be the so-called "trigger mechanism," McCaskill said. That idea, originally proposed by moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, would mandate a public option in the future if specific thresholds for expanded coverage and lower costs go unmet by a certain time.

The goal is to come up with a plan that can overcome a filibuster in the chamber, said McCaskill, who supports including a public option in the health care bill.

"I'd be less than honest if I didn't say all of us were concerned about making sure we get the votes to move forward," McCaskill said. "But I remain pretty optimistic."

However, other Senate Democrats have concerns about a public option. Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat from Nebraska, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" program he had yet to decide on the issue.

"I've made no promise," Nelson said, adding he would need to see the contents of the bill being drafted by Reid before determining if he would help stop a likely Republican filibuster attempt.

Nelson questioned Reid's plan for a national public option that allows states to opt out, but indicated possible support for a plan in which states could opt in.

"Look, I'm a Jeffersonian Democrat," Nelson said. "I think states can make decisions on their own about their own citizens and so I certainly would look at that."

On the same program, liberal Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio said he could support a public option with the opt-out provision. Brown expressed concern about a trigger mechanism, but stopped short of calling it a deal-breaker.

"The trigger says, 'Let's give the health insurance companies another two years after they've had five decades since World War II to do things right,' " Brown said, adding, "We need the public option now. We need it in large part because it will inject competition into places where they don't have it."

Also on "State of the Union," Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah rejected any form of a public insurance option.

"You're going to have a fiasco on your hands," Hatch warned, saying it would place additional financial burdens on states.

On CBS' "Face the Nation," both Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin said they expect some form of health care legislation to pass.

Feingold said the the public option matter could eventually be decided in negotiations to reconcile versions of the bill passed by each chamber.

"I'm frankly getting excited that we may have some momentum for something very positive," he said.

McCain, however, criticized Obama for allowing Democratic leaders and White House officials to craft the latest versions of a health care bill in private. Such closed-door talks violate an Obama campaign pledge to negotiate the health care bill on C-SPAN, McCain said.

Democrats respond that the bills passed in congressional committees include Republican amendments, and that floor debate in both chambers will be publicly televised.

–CNN's Martina Stewart contributed to this report.

Filed under: Democrats • Harry Reid • Health care • Popular Posts • Senate
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. joe mett

    Sure the Democratic base has a right to be furious with President Obama and Congressional Democrats.

    Do they think that Republicans and Senator Olympia Snowe voted for them to the White House or for them to get the majority in Congress. The Democrats should wake up from their spineless attitude in trying to pass health care reform with a public option.

    Should we remind them that health care reform with a public option was in their 2008 campaign platform?

    October 25, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  2. D.

    At this point the democrats seem to be interested in a health care bill that no one knows what good it is for and it seems like it is only an idea that needs to pass since it was a campaign promise, regardless of effectiveness, cost, benefits or whatever... We are going to get something we do not want and we will react when it is time to re-elect all these clowns.

    October 25, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  3. Pragmatic

    Elected representatives need to listen to those who elected them. Those who want the public option are in the majority. The minority, as usual, is loud but still a minority.

    If health care reform fails, the GOP will take the blame. With only 20% of Americans willing to admit they are republicans ... this defines the noisy minority.

    October 25, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  4. Charles

    After my PPO for next year doubled my monthly ($130 to $270) cost and cut the benefits by 30% along with the government Medicare increase – I'm in favor of some competition for big insurance – let them use last year's limousines and jets – and if we can find a feasible excuse let's send them to a bit of jail time.

    October 25, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  5. jsmith

    Great Harry...that will really mess things up....Hey.. Harry, whats your next job, genius.....

    October 25, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  6. JJ

    Would it really be so bad if insurance companies went away? Please enlighten me if so.

    October 25, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  7. B

    He must be growing a spine.... finally.

    October 25, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  8. Artie

    This miserable wimp of a man is going to help drag America down to third world status!

    October 25, 2009 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  9. Jack Carlson

    Reid is a kook, and will be gone in Nov 2010.
    Jack C

    October 25, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  10. Willy Brown

    Can't wait till this loser is voted out of office.

    October 25, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  11. Tom

    Good! I'll be surprised but very pleasantly so if Reid shows the nerve to do this. Let Olympia Snowe and the rest decide whether they really want to stand up and deny the American people health care when everybody is watching them on a vote that really counts. It's time to the do the right thing, and that means putting in a good reform plan with a good public option. It will cover people and it will help American businesses freeing them from the burden of covering skyrocketing health care costs for their employees.

    October 25, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  12. A Southern Lady - North Carolina

    If we are ever to have reasonable health care for all, a public option is absolute necessary in any health care plan. The Republicans, the insurance industry and the drug companies will and are fighting it tooth and nail for it will end their "gravy train" years and require some accountability. Republicans legislators, Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Fox News have done a good job of distorting the truth and have convinced people to actually act against their own best interests. The passing of a healh care bill with a public option will rate with Social Security and Medicare as the actions of a country who understands the needs of its people and have acted to fulfill those needs. This is why we should all be so proud of our country and the courage of President Obama and the Democrats to do what is right.

    October 25, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  13. Greg, MN

    Thank God!!!!!!

    That will kill the bill for sure. How many dems say they can't vote for a public option ? Was it 8-10? Plus 0 Reps = NOT FIlibuster proof.

    October 25, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  14. Tom in Delaware

    Reid's been promising a whole lot of things since July and hasn't delivered on any of them....this is just the latest incarnation of his fantasy world.

    October 25, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  15. Jenn, Philadelphia

    This is Harry Reid doing something to get re-elected and for no other reason. He's in big trouble in Nevada and needs to look like he's actually leading his party.

    October 25, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  16. JD in Jax

    We could "fix" health insurance and it wouldn't cost the taxpayers a dime nor would it put us on a path to a government controlled program.

    1) Increase competition by allowing the sale of health insurance across state lines. Auto insurance is a great example of how this has worked.

    2) Tort reform to limit pain and suffering awards and the way in which Attorneys are compensated in such claims. One of the reasons for excessive punitive damages is because the lawyers get paid based on a percentage of the settlement.

    3) Allow individuals to pool their purchasing power and afford them the same access and tax breaks given to big business so they can have insurance taht is portable, affordable and accessible without relying on an employer.

    4) Implement all those cost savings reforms to rid the Medicare-Medicaid system of fraud and waste that the administration keeps claiming as a way to help pay for their bloated reform package. If they can really save all that money by cutting out fraud and abuse prove it before you ask us (the taxpayer) to fork over billions and billions of dollars on an unproven system.

    October 25, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  17. Howie

    The republicans can not wait for Reid to include the public option. They know if will fail and will lead the GOP back to the white house. I have worked for the government for more than 30 years and I know how government programs work. Public option will be the death penality, however, here is hope that Reid will include and hope that it passes. I have worked on many programs in the government and I can assure you none, I mean NONE, have ever come under budget. Think that Medicare and Medicade are broken, wait until they invoke the public option.

    October 25, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  18. coinier

    It's no longer worth it. 'Triggers', 'opt-outs', 'exchanges', 'public option', 'coops', whatever....., None of these plans comes anywhere close to being what is necessary, and that is a single-payer system. American 'tradition' ,is a sad excuse, to not even give the best option a chance. They shoulda never let 'em escort single-payer advocates from the 'roundtable' discussions. Now, they wonder why they may not even get a P.O.? lol

    October 25, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  19. Jim in New Mexico

    Reid isn't an American. He is the absolute opposite of everything American.

    October 25, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  20. The idiot

    Of coursre he will, this is no news. The libs control the congress and he said early on along with Comrade Pelosi that the collectivisation of health care was a top priority for her and Comrade Obama.

    October 25, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  21. Four and The Door

    I haven't figured out yet if the Democrats don't believe a Public Option will drive insurers out of business or if they don't care if it ends up as a Fedreal government takeover of the health care insurance industry. Either they really don't understand how real competition helps an industry this is all just their own little political game to help their own career short term and who cares what happens down the road. Sad.

    October 25, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  22. james

    thank god there a good chance he won't be elected next here in nevada. he not for the people,but for the dems agenda

    October 25, 2009 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  23. JP

    Do a search on medicare fraud and see if the public option is a good idea. What will happen to private insurance when it competes against a public option that pays no taxes and doesn't have to make a profit and pays medicare reimbursement rates. The costs of the plans are a lie. Obama promised the illegals "a path to citizenship" So add another 12 million low wage people to the costs after they are citizens. Ask your elected officals why the trial lawyers are more important than the taxpayers. There is no real reform without tort reform.

    October 25, 2009 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  24. Denna

    Good. We need the public option. It is about time that the insurance companies do what they are supposed to do; take care of their customers. I cannot imagine another business that can take your money, then tell you to jump in the lake when you file a claim.

    October 25, 2009 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  25. Albo58

    The public option has ALWAYS been the plan for this President and his Congressional "leaders"! These treasonous thugs should be chunked out Washington ASAP!

    October 25, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
1 2 3