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More on public option compromise

A bit more on this evolving compromise by a group of 10 liberal and moderate Dems (see Foxnews.com original story) who met again tonight for about an hour…an intense backroom discussion to craft some kind of compromise that will enable Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, to start the cloture process so this bill has even a CHANCE of getting done by Christmas. (There must be 3 cloture petitions filed on this bill ---- that’s 9 DAYS on procedure alone eaten up.)

Essentially, a deal on this issue could make or break this $848 billion healthcare bill, which is why Reid told this group to get in a room and hammer something out.

Meeting again 10am Tuesday --- with an aim to having some kind of deal put together than can then be sent to CBO. (So be careful – if a reporter says “a deal has been reached!” --- know that that’s a TENTATIVE deal and one that has NOT been presented to the entire Caucus, nor to CBO -- and that score is critical to support).

3 components that we know of (but there are more):

1- National plan modeled on FEHBP (fed employees’ coverage plan) w/ negotiator being same as for FEHBP --- and that’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM), instead of HHS. OPM is thought to be a neutral arbiter.

***NOTE: This removed “GOVERNMENT RUN” from the equation. OPM would enter a state & say, “I have XX many people. What’s the best plan u private insurers can give?” One is submitted, approved, and the insurer runs the plan.

2- MEDICARE expansion.

People b/n 55 & 65, either without insurance or who lost insurance, could pay the premium at perhaps a higher rate.

3- MEDICAID expansion ---- tbd on details. This is pretty controversial --- it would have to be quite expensive for the federal govt, as they would need to shoulder a burden the states could not.

Ben Nelson, in the negotiations, exited the room saying, “We’re a long ways away from anything that would approach being semi-final, let alone final.”

BUT --- could they finish talks by tomorrow? “I don’t know. It depends on how many people want to agree,” Nelson said.

CBO would then take a week or more to score the bill. Nelson said that analysis is crucial – that it could bust the “deal.”

Sen Sherrod Brown, D-OH, a strong proponent of a robust public option, who is at the negotiating table, said, "My goal is to make sure that this bill does all it can to keep rates down...and that the insurance industry influence won't grow."

Brown said the public option is not gone, however. "It's not gone. There's no agreement on anything. There's going to be an agreement on a whole package at some point."

Sen Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, a lead negotiator in the room, described the meeting as "so intense" and said, "We can't lose anybody. The stakes are so high. It's such a huge subject."

Rockefeller said members in the group have "reporting groups on different subjects" and as they speak about each issue, they talk about "who do we win, who do we lose."

The senator, who also supports a robust public option tied to Medicare levels of reimbursement, said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, a member of leadership, is serving as a kind of referee. He's "trying to keep everyone from talking over one another."

One critical note of praise came from one ardent opponent of any kind of public option --- Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas – who said a national plan w/ OPM as the negotiator “makes a lot of sense.”

Rockefeller said there is no White House involvement in the room but that "we've opened it up to any (senator's) staff that want to be there. Not senators, but staff."

The senator, quoting the late Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, said there could be a lot of mind-changing that might jeopardize any agreement by morning, a testiment to the precarious nature of the talks.

"Does the morning's reflection bear the evening's enjoyment?"

THE GROUP:

Libs:

Schumer – moderator

Harkin

Brown

Feingold

Rockefeller

Mods:

Pryor – moderator/host

Ben Nelson

Landrieu

Lincoln

Carper

**Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-CT, has been invited, but SO FAR, he has NOT attended these meetings. Lieberman, who could count as Reid’s 60th Democrat in breaking a filibuster, has said he does not approve of a public option in any form and would support a filibuster.

NO WORD on if he’d like this deal any better.**