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Reid Unveils Final Plan; States Could Opt Out of Public Option

Updated: 4:18 p.m.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Monday that he has settled on the pieces of a final health care reform package that includes a proposal for a public insurance option with an opt-out provision for the states. Reid, speaking at an afternoon press conference, said that with the opt-out plan he believes he would be able to corral the support of all 60 Senate Democrats. Other aspects of the final Senate health care bill are still unsettled. Reid said he has forwarded various proposals to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring. However, the public insurance option with the opt-out provision for the states is the only public option proposal being submitted to the nonpartisan CBO for a cost estimate, Reid said.“I think it’s the fairest way to go,— Reid said when asked why he chose opt-out over moderate GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (Maine) proposal for a trigger that would allow for a public option if private insurers fail to offer affordable coverage for all. “I think at this stage in the proceedings, the public option has just received so much attention, and the public option with an opt-out is one that is fair and gives states … if they don’t want to be part of the public option, the option to get out.—The Republicans’ response was swift and universal. Senate GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) delivered a speech on the Senate floor denouncing the opt-out provision even before Reid’s news conference began. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also blasted the proposal, saying: “Wholly aside from the debate over whether the government gets into the insurance business, the core of the proposal is a bill that the American public clearly does not like and doesn’t support.— The Democratic Conference is scheduled to be briefed on the full package Tuesday. The final Senate health care reform bill is not expected to hit the floor for debate until after the CBO gives it a score. Reid said the White House, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) are on board with the opt-out plan. Reid has been huddling with Dodd, Baucus and White House senior officials to negotiate the final package.

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