Last-Ditch Public Option Compromise Looks To Federal Employees’ Plan
As the health care debate grinds forward, Majority Leader Harry Reid asked a group of ten Democratic senators five liberals and five centrists to forge a compromise on a government-operated health insurer, The New York Times reports. Even among Democrats, moderates and liberals differ on this thorny issue. "The push for a deal on the public option indicated the pressure Democrats were feeling to resolve their differences if they hope to pass the bill by their self-imposed deadline of Christmas" (Pear and Herszenhorn, 12/6).
The Wall Street Journal reports that the ten Democrats "were nearing agreement on an alternative that would empower the government's Office of Personnel Management to run a new national health plan, congressional aides said." The OPM oversees the federal employee health plan. "Under the proposal, the office would negotiate terms of the plan with private insurers, and contract with nonprofit entities set up by the private sector to run the program, aides said" (Hitt and Adamy, 12/7).
An aide explained the political appeal of the compromise to Politico: "The proposal under consideration can be said to provide access to the same type of insurance plans that members of Congress and federal employees get. People think of that as government health insurance; progressives could portray this in the same vein. But moderates can simultaneously point to the fact that the government isn't the payer and say competition was enhanced without growing the government" (Brown, 12/6).
The OPM-run federal employee's plan is a hybrid between public and private health insurance that may trump the black-and-white view of public and private insurers that have so divided lawmakers, The New York Times reports in a separate story. "Although the plans are all private, the fact that the program is regulated by legislation, overseen by a federal agency and serves federal workers gives it the aura of public insurance even though it is not public insurance. And giving many Americans the same coverage as members of Congress is a politically potent and appealing concept for both lawmakers and the people they serve" (Herszenhorn, 12/6).
And Kaiser Health News tracked the weekend's Capitol Hill developments and headlines, including ongoing public option talks , President Obama's visit to the Hill and Democrats' efforts to find compromises.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.