Carper Floats Public Option Alternative Viewed Skeptically By Conservatives and Liberals

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October 1, 2009 5:29 a.m.

Senate Finance Committee member Tom Carper (D-DE)–who voted against a robust public option amendment but for a more modest public option amendment Tuesday–is quietly circulating a public option alternative that doesn’t involve triggers but also wouldn’t create a national public option.

Carper’s proposal, according to Politico, would allow individual states to decide whether to create their own public options, or co-ops, or other alternative to private insurance. That’s a plan that sounds intriguing to public option skeptics and even some more liberal Democrats, but it’s also a significant departure from the public plan envisioned by reformers, which would be available nationwide without delay.Liberal critics will charge that, while the plan doesn’t involve triggers, it does lack the heft that a plan organized at the national level would have to bargain down prices with providers; and conservative critics will oppose it on the same grounds upon which they oppose the traditional public option. And unfortunately for Carper, those critics include some high profile senators including Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

But with the public option’s fate in doubt in the Senate, it could nonetheless become an attractive alternative down the line. If Carper officially introduces the proposal, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on.

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