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

UPI/Newscom

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.