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Public Plan, Co-ops Remain on Health Reform Plate

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, August 24, 2009

While Congress continues its summer recess, the only thing certain about the healthcare reform is that the debate over options, such as a public insurance plan or co-ops, will not be quieting down any time soon. While the Senate Finance Committee has indicated it will not include a public plan in its proposal, talk on Capitol Hill shows that it is not entirely down for the count.

During most of the week, observers were looking closely for indications of whether President Obama was--or was not--backing away from support of a public option. In one comment, he said that "whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of healthcare reform...this is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it."

On Sunday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he didn't think that President Obama was backing away from the public. "I've talked to the president personally about this in the last few weeks. He believes strongly in the public option," he said.

"Obviously he is working hard to get a bipartisan bill, because that would be a better bill," he added. But "at the end of the day, we will have a public option" that "could be passed with the 60 Democratic votes we had...and I think that's the direction we're going to end up in."

While the Democrats are looking for a bipartisan approach, thoughts are being given to a reconciliation approach--which would require only 51 votes. "If we don't have a bipartisan bill, we'll never be able to meet the goal of having a bill signed into law by the end of the year...so yes, we are considering alternatives," he said.

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