Reid, the bill: a public option in the Senate!

The big news today is that Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid is moving forward with a merged bill that includes a public health insurance option (with a provision for states to “opt-out” of having one if they choose).

I am well aware that the issue of the public option has been a source of great discussion in recent weeks. I have always been a strong supporter of the public option. While the public option is not a silver bullet, I believe it is an important way to ensure competition and to level the playing field for patients.

As we’ve gone through this process, I’ve concluded, with the support of the White House and Senators Baucus and Dodd, that the best way forward is to include a public option with an opt-out provision for states. Under this concept, states will be able to determine whether the public option works well for them and will have the ability to opt-out. I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system.

It will protect consumers, keep insurers honest and ensure competition and that’s why we intend to include it on the bill that will be submitted to the Senate for consideration. We have spent countless hours over the last few days in consultation with Senators who have shown a genuine desire to see reform succeed, and I believe there is strong consensus to move forward in this direction.Today’s developments bring us another step closer to achieving our goal of passing a bill this year that lowers costs, preserves choice, creates competition and improves quality of care.

Some other points from the 10-minute press conference:

* Reid said he had the votes to “move to this bill & start legislating.” That suggests that he has 60 votes on motion to proceed–but he gave no guarantee he can break a filibuster.

* Reid’s best line was that he was “always looking for Republicans [to vote with us].. there’re just a little hard to find.. [The number of] moderate Republicans are extremely limited.. I can count them on 2 fingers.”

* When he was asked about affordability and subsidies, Reid said the bill was a meld of the HELP and Finance proposals.

* Sen. Reid didn’t mention, and not one reporter asked, about merged bill’s reqs for employer-based coverage–which is how half of US gets coverage now. There’s concern that the Senate version is leaning toward the Finance “free rider” proposal rather than the much better HELP version.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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