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. Potomac Wonderfool

    what is this bruhaha about opt-out? Even today's mediacare is not mandatory. It becomes mandatory because my insurance company modified its policy When Midicare was implemented that whenI become 65, Medicare will be my primary and my insurance company would become secondary. In short, my private insurance company shoved me in to Medicare. Even then, since I was working abroad, and Medicare did not cover me for medical services received abroad, I did not have medicare fore three years. AND MEDICARE WAS NOT MANDATORY. Even now I could opt out. Do I dare? hell no. Who is going to insure me for a premium I can afford? I never used any medical hep (except a few minor items) for 40 years and the insurance company collected premium on me. Now when i need medical care, where is it? Oh, it is there, right behind Medicare. Laughing all the way.

    October 25, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  2. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    Likely won't cut it!
    Make it happen.
    A public option is the ONLY thing, short of Single Payer that will put HEALTH CARE ahead of profits.

    October 25, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  3. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    Then Reid will likely put the final nail in the coffin of health care "reform"–the 53% of Americans who actually pay taxes, and everyone who can balance a check book, know we can't afford to waste a trillion bucks paying the medical bills of bums who can't be bothered to pay their own.

    October 25, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  4. Cali

    Good for you, Harry! Please put the public option in there and fight for it!!! I'd hate to think it's just posturing so you can shrug your shoulders and say you tried. ITS THE RIGHT THING TO DO so do it!

    Don't let the lobbyist smoke screen and townhall propagandists make you believe the general public don't want it. Obama didn't edge out McCain, he demolised him in votes!!!

    Lets not rest on history – do something great for the people! (Not corporations; they take care of themselves very well).

    October 25, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  5. David in West Virginia

    It's high time for the Democrats to pass the Health Care Bill with the Public Option without the Republican members of Congress. They have had plenty of time to work towards a bi-partisan bill and have added amendments to bills in both the house and senate that favors the Insurance Companies and their lobbies. They want their PUBLIC OPTION, BUT DON'T CARE ABOUT THE UNINSURED OR SICK, EVEN DYING AMERICANS WITH NO OPTIONS when it comes to health care.

    Pass the Public Option NOW, and if any Senator or Congressperson has the Option with their insurance in Congress, GIVE IT UP, YOU hypocrites!!!!!!!!!!

    October 25, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  6. Dennis, Amarillo Texas

    Alert! Alert! The Reid Democrats are passing a bill to drop the requirement of your employer to provide you healthcare! 100 million Americans are going to LOSE their current healthcare plan! You will be REQUIRED to buy the Government OPTION! The Government OPTION will be HIGHER PREMIUMS, as much as $400 per family member, Cover ONLY 65% of your Medical Cost at the Hospital, at your Doctor, for tests, and you will have to pay a minimum of $100 per prescriptions. The Flexcare will be CUT in half to $2,500 max per year! Your OUT OF POCKET IS going to $10,000 per family member!
    EVERYONE on the Government OPtion WILL go Bankrupt!

    ANY Business that offers their Employee Insurance Plan any you accept it, YOU will PAY 40% of your Benefits in INCOME TAX!!! To help pay the government the 65% they are covering on people enrolled in the Government OPTION!

    You American FOOLS are fixing to end up with NO affordable Insurance! Our Health CARE System as we know WILL BE COMPLETELY DISTROYED! Doctors will discontinue to accept any person coverd by a Government OPTION!!


    October 25, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  7. jerry

    Who needs 60 votes? Just do the 50 vote majority rule and get the public option in and done. Republicans complained bitterly about Medicare but now its a part of mainstream and everyone (most) think it is a good plan. That will be the same as what happens to the public option after its been in place a few years.

    Probably half the fools who are against the option will be on it themselves within a year of it becoming law.

    Too many Americans don't have a clue about this or other major issues.


    Just get it done Dems.

    October 25, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  8. Stella

    Harry Reid, PLEASE, PLEASE keep the public option in the bill -this is the right thing to do for all Americans, this is the historical act that waits to be done, for several decades, THIS IS THE TIME – don't be intimidated by
    the NO-MACHINE called Republican Party, they will never agree, whatever compromise you are willing to do – don't let this historical moment slip between your fingers, and One Republican (Snow) doesn't really make a difference, forget about her and DO THE RIGHT THING FOR ALL AMERICANS: DON"T GIVE UP ON PUBLIC OPTION –

    October 25, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  9. Puddin'

    If a public option plan is put in place where states can "opt out,' every state with a Republican governor will opt out, so where does that leave citizens of that state who want and need a public option? What are the rules for "opting out?" That idea does not seem to be a good one, and my preference then would be the so-called "trigger option."

    October 25, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  10. STILL unemployed in Iowa

    more democratic LIES to all the people, say one thing do another. Just like the LIEING Obama.

    October 25, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  11. Reid is blowing in the wind

    grow a spine

    October 25, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  12. Mark

    Did anyone see his polling numbers for the upcoming election??

    October 25, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  13. Mark

    Stop Black Obama now. People are going to be forced to pay for Health Insurance they don't need. Most people can't afford health care. Now you are going to be forced to pay for health insurance you can't afford. If you don't get a plan your going to be fined. Your going to hate him if this passes. Doctors are going to love him.

    Stop Obama. He's just evil.

    Where is LBJ when this country needs him? If only Lyndon Johnson was vice president he'd take out Obama just like he took out JFK. Doctors think they are so smart, lets see them resurrect LBJ.

    Further more all the Health Insurance in the World is not going to stop you from dying. God is going to come for you any time he wants. Just like a thieves most Doctors are.

    October 25, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  14. charlie in Maine

    He'd better if he likes his job. Here is an idea. Don't let the threat of a fillibuster make you water down your proposal. Put the thing up and if the GOP is so stupid that they want to stand in the way let em. Make them read the phonebook for days and have to keep talking while the nation's business stops while they try to keep America from honest heallth-care. Call their bluff and back it up. Not only will it work politically it will help the people of this country. Win -win and if a few blow hard GOPers lose their voices in the process so much the better.

    October 25, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  15. Bull

    The liberal left will cause this bill to fail if they keep pushing for the Public Option. Everyone except the minority left realize that we can never afford such a stupid idea.

    October 25, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  16. Bpin

    Yep. Pass the Bachus bill so we can show the US that we are making progress. Insert the very part of the legislation that you know will get everything back to square one. Makes a lot of sense,don't it? Oh,but we are making progress.Even most of the liberals know that we just simply cannot afford a public option. We are already broke, we are facing a degrading of our bonds which will impact our credit, and we want to spend billions more. May God almighty save us!!!!!

    October 25, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  17. robert h zendarski

    how are we going to pay for this and the people want to know what it will cost them

    October 25, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  18. Plinking Reality

    Great. The people who need the help most won't get it. The worst states for health care are what? The RED STATES or the states most likely to "opt out." BRILLIANT! Let the people who need it most have their ideological representatives say no to taking care of their constituents. Harry, grow a set, and help Americans that need it most.

    October 25, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  19. teacher

    Let's hope that this 'aide' is telling the truth and not just appeasing the liberal constituency. All of us, liberal, independent, conservative, will benefit from this so-called 'public option' – actually a way to put the power in the hands of doctors and patients where it belongs.

    October 25, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  20. chubby

    Reid is going home after the 2010 elections, so I guess he plans to take alot of demorats with him to the unemployment line or maybe become a lobbyist.

    October 25, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  21. Ryan indy

    Reid is a TRAITOR to the United States and would have been given a Traitors Death in Lincolns Era for Treason.......

    October 25, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  22. Jim

    Harry Reid is a fool. He cares not what the majority of the American public thinks. This is the same person who said he could smell the visitors when they visited the National Mall. Go away and do America a favor.

    October 25, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  23. John V.

    Yes for public option. Our political leaders are so out of touch that it is scary. I hope Reid includes the public option.

    October 25, 2009 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  24. Dawn, Ada, Ohio

    If he wants to have any chance of re election he better include a public option, or out on his ear he will go!!

    October 25, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  25. On the other hand...

    $900 billion for a program that raises the cost of health care in America could only be possible with Democrats in charge of congress and a Democrat in the White House. It will probably cripple our economy for another decade. Imagine the trouble future generations will have trying to undo this behemoth bureaucracy.

    October 25, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
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