Reid: Public Option No ‘Silver Bullet’ But Strong Consensus For Opt-Out

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced what we’ve been reporting today – the merged health care bill will include a public option allowing states to opt-out.

“Under this concept states will be able to determine whether the public option works best for them,” Reid told reporters. He said it was the “fairest” way to go.

Reid (D-NV) said after “countless hours” of talking to his caucus, there is a “strong consensus” for this plan. He said he will not submit a plan with a triggered public option to the Congressional Budget Office.

“As we’ve gone through this process, I’ve concluded, with the support of the White House and Senators. Dodd and Baucus, that the best way to move forward is to include a public option with an opt out provision for states,” Reid said.Reid said he was “disappointed” the public option had “frightened” Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) but that he hoped she would “come back.”

“I spoke to Olympia on Friday…and at this stage she does not like the public option of any kind. And so, we’ll have to move forward on this, and there will come a time I hope, where she sees the wisdom of supporting a health care bill,” he said.

“We hope Olympia will come back, she’s worked hard, she’s a very good legislator,” Reid added.

He also blasted Republicans, saying he can count the moderates in the GOP on “two fingers.”

Reid said it had been “a great opportunity” to work with the White House and said he feels optimistic about overall health care reform because of “momentum” and the caucus consensus. But he wouldn’t tell reporters if he had done a count that got him to the needed 60 votes to break a filibuster.

Reid said he is a “strong supporter” of the public option but that is is “not a silver bullet.” He said it was a key way to ensure competition among insurers and “to level the playing field.”

Today Reid implied that under the current bill, states will have until 2014 to opt out of the government plan.

He also said “there will be a co-op in this bill.”

In the next several hours, Reid will send the CBO a draft bill with alternative provisions on certain issues, to get a range of cost estimates on the plan he’ll bring to the floor.

Late update: The White House issued a response that President Obama is “pleased” public option included. Reid said he hasn’t asked Obama to make calls yet.

Also, we clipped the video of Reid’s presser.

Additional reporting by Brian Beutler.

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