UPDATED Reid: Co-ops Could Replace Public Option if Structured Right


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid often says that he supports a public option “or something like a public option.” But he spoke about that a bit more specifically today:

“The purpose of a public option is to create competition, which is so important, and to create quality healthcare,” Reid told reporters today.

“If we can come up with a concept of a cooperative that does just that, that is it makes more competition and makes insurance companies honest, yes, I think that would fit the bill,” Reid said.

A couple things jump out about this. First, this is a bit more specific than we’re used to with Reid. He’s very clear here that, at least in theory, a co-op could meet all of his and the President’s requirements with respect to creating competition and honesty in the insurance market.

More importantly, though, this comes a day after Obama’s speech where he specifically warned liberals that he doesn’t see a government-run public option as an end in and of itself. It’s a tool. Reid is using very similar language to say a co-op model might serve that function as well. And since the just-released Senate Finance Committee draft provides for the creation of a co-op system, it seems pretty clear that Reid’s taking the idea seriously.

Late update: A Reid spokesperson tells me “Reid did not endorse the co-op plan at today’s press conference. He reiterated again today that he supports a public option but is open to interpretations of such a plan. The goals for him are lowering cost and keeping the insurance industry in check.” And indeed, it does seem that other reports have overstated Reid’s remarks.


Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com