Reid: ‘Broad Agreement’ Reached By Senate Democrats On Health Bill
The Associated Press: "After days of secret talks, Senate Democrats tentatively agreed Tuesday night to drop a government-run insurance option from sweeping health care legislation, several officials said, a concession to party moderates whose votes are critical to passage of President Barack Obama's top domestic priority. ... In place of a government-run plan, originally designed as a way of forcing competition on private industry, officials said the Democrats had tentatively settled on a private insurance arrangement to be supervised by the federal agency that oversees the system through which lawmakers purchase coverage. Additionally, the tentative deal calls for Medicare to be opened to uninsured Americans beginning at age 55, a significant expansion of the large government health care program that currently serves the 65-and-over population" (Espo, 12/8).
But CongressDaily is reporting that Reid "said the public option was not abandoned. 'Tonight we've overcome a real problem that we had,' Reid said, adding that reports that the public option was off the table were 'not true.' ... Members would not share what was in the package, but indicated its contents had changed from earlier discussions surrounding a Medicare buy-in for those between 55 and 64 years old, giving the federal government the power to negotiate with insurers on behalf of a national plan and expanding Medicaid. 'You just know what was being talked about,' said Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer of New York. 'Things change all the time'" (Edney and Friedman, 12/8).
Politico writes that the "major step" towards compromise came when Democrats agreed "to ask congressional scorekeepers to give them cost estimates ... 'Not everyone will agree to every piece we sent over there,' Reid said. 'But believe me that we've got something that's good...it moves this bill way down the road'" (Budoff Brown and O'Connor, 12/8).
CNN: "[Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] and the two senators who negotiated the agreement -- Charles Schumer and Mark Pryor -- would not reveal any details of the plan. 'It goes without saying it's been kind of a long journey,' Reid said. 'We've overcome a real problem that we had. I think it's fair to say the debate at this stage has been portrayed as a very divisive one.' ... 'All of the pieces have to fit together before anyone agrees on anything, but in that area we have pretty good consensus,' said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who is leading the all-Democrat talks. Schumer said the talks would continue throughout Tuesday in the face of remaining 'bumps in the road.' ... Two of the negotiators, liberal Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Nelson, are working out the additional unspecified reforms, according to Schumer" (Bash and Glass, 12/8).
Roll Call: "The agreement came after six days of high-pressure Senate negotiations among five Democratic centrists and five Democratic liberals over how to change the public health insurance option in the Senate bill." Roll Call quotes Reid: "I think it's fair to say that the debate to this stage has been portrayed as a very divisive one and many have assumed that people of different perspectives can't come together. And I think that what we were able to work out the last few days, which culminated tonight, belies that fact. We have a broad agreement' (Pierce and Drucker, 12/8).
Before the deal was announced, MSNBC reported: "While re-affirming his fierce opposition to the 'public option,' Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., showed an openness to consider the deal, which would create an insurance program regulated by the government but run by private insurance companies. ... Lieberman's apparent receptiveness to the compromise could eventually provide Senate Democrats with the critical 60th vote they need to pass the sweeping health care reform bill. ... Lieberman said the idea of a national insurance plan that mirrors the one offered to members of Congress is 'an idea worth considering' as long as private companies run the program" (Strickland, 12/8).