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Majority Leader Reid Says Public Option Is In

Just announced this afternoon. Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announces the merging of bills from the Senate Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will include an “opt-out” version of the public option. This means basically that states will be able to choose not to offer their citizens a government-run, lower-cost health plan that is competitive with private plans currently offered in those states—but that the “default” position will be a national program. Reid announced:

I’ve concluded—with the support of the White House, Senators Dodd and Baucus—that the best way to move forward is to include a public option with the opt-out provision for states. . . . The public option, with an opt-out, is the one that’s fair. . . . We’ve spent countless hours over the last few days in consultation with senators who’ve shown a genuine desire to reform the health care system. And I believe there’s a strong consensus to move forward in this direction.

Ryan Grim reports further details at Huffington Post here [1].

Here is the [2]New York Times [2]’s account.

With his usual lucidity, Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo explains “So What Is the ‘Opt-Out’ Compromise? [3]” He says, in part:

It’s certainly a problem that a substantial number of Americans—probably in red states—would lack the public option. But by making it an opt-out rather than an opt-in, you start with a truly national program. That’s the key. The default is everyone is in. Even if you had 1/3 or even, conceivably half the states (or half the total national population in however many states) you’d still have enough heft to make it have the desired effect. And presumably you’d have by far most of the population in the program. . . .

And if the public option is available in North Carolina, just to pick a hypothetical, and not South Carolina, after a while, people in the South Carolina might start to wonder what the logic was of denying them a lower cost health insurance option. And if that’s true, presumably, pressure will build in the opt-out states to opt-in. So even if a substantial number of people aren’t covered at the start, there’s good reason to believe that will change over time.

Senator Reid’s phone number in Washington is 202-224-3542. He can be e-mailed at <senator_reid@reid.senate.gov> and faxed at 202-224-7327, if you want to say thank you. We’ve made good use of these contact numbers ourselves and will be sure to thank him for including the public option.

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