KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

White House Leaning Towards Public Option With State Opt Out Provision, Sen. Nelson Says

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the White House are leaning towards including a national public option -- with a provision for states to opt out of it -- in the Senate health care bill, Sen. Ben. Nelson (D-Neb.) said Thursday" after a briefing with Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Politico's Live Pulse blog reports. The blog reports that Nelson, a "key swing" vote, said, "I keep hearing there is a lot of leaning toward some sort of national public option, unfortunately, from my standpoint." He said, "I still believe a state-based approach is the way in which to go. So I'm not being shy about making that point" (Brown, 10/22).

According to Modern Healthcare, "Baucus acknowledged that the negotiations have focused, in part, on the public option, but was adamant that nothing had been finalized." Internal discussions among senators and Obama administration officials "have also keyed in on other areas, such as strengthening the individual insurance mandate and finding a workable employer mandate" (DoBias, 10/22). 

On the House side, "Speaker Nancy Pelosi is having enough trouble finding 218 votes for her 'robust' public option. Now she says she really wants more than that," The Hill's Blog Briefing Room reports. Earlier this week, Pelosi said she doesn't have all the votes she needs, but is close. "'I always want more,' Pelosi told reporters Thursday with a laugh. ... Her comments today indicates that would further her strategy of getting leverage on the Senate for the public option. 'Whatever it is, it will be a good vote,' Pelosi said. 'We will send our negotiators to the table with a strong public option.'" Pelosi has asked House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) to talk to House Democrats to see "where they stand on the Medicare-based public option favored by party liberals" (Soraghan, 10/22).

In related news, the Associated Press reports: "Pelosi says she'll include a measure removing health insurers' federal antitrust exemption in sweeping health care legislation pending in the House. ... Stand-alone bills had been pending in both chambers but incorporating them in the larger health overhaul underscores Democrats' determination to punish insurers" (10/22).

The Washington Post: The measure "to strip the industry of protection from federal investigations into price-fixing and other business practices won bipartisan approval in a House committee on Wednesday. This morning, Pelosi told reporters that she would include that measure in the health care package Democrats hope to bring before the full House early next month." And as Pelosi and her lieutenants moved closer to the 218-vote target they need to advance the House Democrats' health overhaul measure "that will feature a government-run insurance plan," White House negotiators "were still trying to smooth over a number of lingering disputes -- particularly over abortion and immigration -- senior lawmakers said much of the measure's language has been locked down and that a final bill could be made public as soon as Monday" (Montgomery and Murray, 10/22).

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