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Hoyer: House Leaning Away from "Robust" Public Option

October 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer [D, MD-5] spoke with reporters this afternoon on where things stand in the House right now with health care legislation. Unlike Sen. Harry Reid’s [D, NV] approach of moving forward with the most progressive public option feasible and then rounding up the final votes to pass it, Hoyer said Democratic leaders in the House are leaning toward the more moderate option because that’s where the votes are right now. TPM:

Asked what type of public option the House bill would likely include, Hoyer suggested that a public option with negotiated rates probably has more votes than does a more robust measure. Though the robust public option has a great deal of support among Democrats, “What additional numbers can you add by going to negotiated rates?…[W]e don’t have that exact number. But certainly there are people who want the negotiated rates who would add themselves to the number [that support a robust public option] that is anywhere between 200 and 218 at this point in time.”

Assuming Reid can round up the final two or three votes for his opt-out public option and that it’s not tied to Medicare rates (reasonable assumptions I think), this means that congressional Dems have really pared down the range of public option options in the last 24 hours. Yesterday morning the possibilities on the table included plans ranging from the “robust” national one with Medicare rates plus 5% to a trigger that would set up small state-based public plans only in states where “affordable coverage” isn’t available. With Reid’s announcement yesterday and this today from Hoyer, the range of options is now likely limited to a level playing field plan (HHS Secretary negotiates rates) with or without an opt-out provision for states.

It sounds like the decision on what public option plan to include in the House bill is being affected by what’s happening in the Senate. “There are some members of the House, obviously, who are very concerned about what the Senate does, and they’re very concerned about what the Senate does because they want to vote for something that can pass,” Hoyer said today. They might be taking Reid’s move to the center on the public option as a sign that he is honing in on the sweet spot that will ultimately be needed to get this passed.

Hoyer also said today that a final bill is possible by the end of this week because they want to get it to CBO and give 72 hours “notice” before they begin the debate. And they want the debate to start next week.

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