Baucus: The Public Option Is Alive…We’re Just Not Sure What Type

October 19, 2009 10:52 am

On a conference call with reporters moments ago, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus said that the public option is still alive, adding, in a familiar refrain, that the question for Democrats now is what kind of public option can get 60 votes.

The goal, Baucus said, was to include something in the bill that keeps premiums down and keeps insurance companies honest. “We just need to find ways to help reach that goal, in addition to the provisions in the bill,” Baucus said.

Baucus cited several permutations of public option proposals under discussion, including what he described as “Medicare light [the robust public option], even playing field [proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), there’s co-ops–that’s private, not public–there’s opt in, opt out,” Baucus said.“It’s alive,” Baucus said. “We’re trying to see what makes the most sense.”

The admission is a fairly candid one for Baucus, who typically demurs at the mention of the public option, and pivots to the idea that the priority for Democrats ought to be a bill that can get 60 votes.

And he did ultimately hit that point, casting doubt on the idea that a health care bill that includes a public option that pays hospitals and doctors at Medicare-like rates, could overcome a filibuster. “I don’t know if there’s 60 votes for the more pure kind of public option, maybe for the less pure kinds,” Baucus said.

But he declined to elaborate on just which compromises might succeed. “It’s just It’s too early to tell. We met, our group…last, I guess it was Thursday. We’re meeting again today….There are a lot of meetings going on, to try to determine the answer to that question,” Baucus said. “Maybe none, maybe one of them.”

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