Senate Democrats put together "a broad agreement" last night to end the dispute over the public option. While the exact details remain hazy, especially because the plan has yet to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, the major points are known. Though reports earlier in the day had the Democrats pulling the plug on the public option, that's not exactly the case. Instead, the deal would open up the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan that members of Congress use, which is privately run but administered by the Office of Personnel Management. However, if the plan doesn't "meet certain goals for making affordable coverage available to all Americans," that could trigger a national public option. The trigger mechanism has been a favorite of Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, so its inclusion could potentially get her onboard, which is important because the mere possibility of a public option down the line could alienate Joe Lieberman.
In addition, as was all the news yesterday, people between the ages of 55 and 64 would have the option of "buying in" to Medicare. However, the proposal to expand Medicaid to encompass families at 150 percent above the poverty line seems to have fallen through. That's a big victory that could make the "sidelining" of the public option worthwhile for liberal Senate Democrats. So, for the moment, this looks like a breakthrough in the making. But the deal also sets up a clash with public-option-loving liberals in the House. Add to that the uncertain future of the Stupak amendment, and our long national health-care-reform nightmare is still far from over.
Reid Says Deal Resolves a Dispute on the Public Option [NYT]
Democrats Agree To Tentatively Trade Opt-Out For Trigger, Medicare Buy In, And More [TPM DC]
Harry Reid: Democrats reach 'broad agreement' [Politico]
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