(Video) Reid Says Senate Health Reform Bill Will Include “Opt-Out” Public Option: Baucus Now Supports It

In a press conference at 3:15 pm today on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the Senate will include an "opt-out" public option in its version of the health care reform bill. States would have the ability to "opt-out" of participating in this plan, as opposed to opting into the plan.

Majority Leader Harry Reid says health care legislation headed to the Senate floor will include an option for government-run insurance.

Shortly after the press conference ended, Senator Baucus (D-MT), who shephereded the Senate Finance Bill through months of committee debate but who had earlier expressed opposition to a public option released a statement in support of it. Baucus said:

There are a tremendous number of complicated issues that go into reform and the public option is certainly one of them.  I included a public option in the health reform blueprint I released nearly one year ago, and continue to support any provision, including a public option, that will ensure choice and competition and get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.  Success should be our threshold and I am going to fight hard for the 60 votes we need to meet that goal this year.

Increasing grass-roots pressure and public support for a public option have literally forced the Senate and House to put back the public option back on the table after it seemed to have died last month.

The "opt
out" proposal
would set up a national insurance plan with government
seed money and be run by a private, not-for-profit board. Under the
proposal, states would have to prove they can provide comparable
coverage in order to exit out of the federal plan. The plan would also
negotiate rates with providers just like private insurance companies
do, presumably keeping premiums on a level playing field with the
private industry. 

At their core, the legislation would expand coverage to millions who
lack it; ban insurance industry practices such as denying coverage
because of pre-existing medical conditions; and rein in the growth in
health care costs nationwide.

At the press conference, Reid stated that this bill is "not just for the poor, but for the middle class," to ensure affordable coverage.

In practical terms, Reid’s announcement means that the two Senate bills that have been passed out of committee will be merged to create one bill.  These include bills passed by the Senate
Finance Committee (which did not contain a public option) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Committee (which does).  In reality, says CNN’s Political Ticker, "he has a virtual free hand
to craft a new bill in his discussions with the chairman of the two
panels and top White House aides."

Reid stated at the press conference that he and others were working ot ensure a solid block of votes for a bill with an opt-out public option.  But the details are not yet clear, and amendments can still be put forth as the bill moves to the floor.

CNN reports that over the weekend, "[o]fficials said…Reid did not intend to require
large companies to provide insurance for their workers. But any that
don’t will be liable for large fines if any of their employees
qualified for government subsidies to handle the expense of private

The push for a public option is also on in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi is working with House Majority Whip Debbie Wasserman Shultz to gather the votes for a "more robust version" of the public
plan, which would be based on Medicare rates and in turn provide for
cheaper premiums.


Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact press@rhrealitycheck.org.

Follow Jodi Jacobson on twitter: @jljacobson