On Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--a senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee--made his frustrations with the state of health reform negotiations public. "I don't think I could say with a straight face that this (co-op proposal) is at all close to a nationwide public option," he told the Associated Press. "Right now, this co-op idea doesn't come close to satisfying anyone who wants a public plan."
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Schumer has been a key negotiator on the committee, seeking compromise between conservative and liberal Democrats on the inclusion of a public insurance option in the committee's forthcoming reform legislation. Last week, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)--also of the Finance Committee--said he thought the idea was dead in the water; that it couldn't win Republican support and that Democrats should throw in their lot with the idea of creating a co-op system instead. That, though, would alienate liberals, and might also fail to entice Republicans to support the entire package, and as a result, Schumer said, Democrats might have to go it alone on the public option.
Now Conrad is changing his tune--at least somewhat. He's still pushing the co-op model, but one with comparable levels of clout to a government-run public plan: "I believe to be effective there has to a national entity with state affiliates and those affiliates have to have the ability to regionalize," Conrad told reporters. "I think [Schumer's] concern there can be addressed."