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Public Option Still Alive in Senate Discussions

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, October 20, 2009

On the Senate side, the closed-door healthcare reform negotiations by representatives from two committees—Finance and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP)—remained for the most part uneventful on Monday.

However, Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), in a reporter teleconference call, said earlier in the day that the public insurance option—which was not included in the Finance bill—"was alive" and they are "still looking at it," he said. "We're trying to see what makes the most sense."

His comments came after several White House aides said over the weekend on Sunday television news shows that while President Obama supports the public insurance option, it wouldn't necessarily have to be in place to receive his signature.

While the president complained that the insurance industry was making a "last ditch effort to stop reform" last week, new areas of support emerged this week when numerous groups—including labor groups, such as the Service Employees International Union and AFSCME, community groups, such as Families USA, and Democratic-backed groups, such as Organizing for America—said they were hoping to generate nearly 100,000 calls to Congress on Tuesday.

In what is being called a "Time to Deliver," President Obama plans a live simulcast to supporters today, encouraging them to call members of Congress and show support health insurance reform.

Overall, Congress has only about eight working weeks left to complete its work in 2009. The goal appears now to have a bill on the Senate floor after Nov. 2, with debate expected through Thanksgiving.

In the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D MD) said last week that any votes would likely occur on the House floor after Nov. 2. Reconciliation between House and Senate bills, if approved, probably would occur no earlier than December.


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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