Friday, October 23, 2009

Offer to Let States Opt Out of Health Plan Gains Support


By GREG HITT and JANET ADAMY | 10/23/09 8:50 AM EDT | Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, stepping deeper into the health-care debate, put his weight Thursday behind a proposal that would create a new government-run insurance plan while giving states the option not to participate.

The proposal, which was described by other senators and congressional aides, represented a first overture by the Nevada Democrat to solve one of the knottiest issues dividing his party: whether to create a national plan that would serve as a low-cost alternative to private insurers. House Democratic leaders are strongly behind a government-run plan, though exact details have yet to be finalized.

Whether the Senate will embrace any form of the idea is unknown. Republicans are lining up in near lockstep against it. Moderate Democrats are concerned, too, and responded Thursday with wariness.

Sen. Ben Nelson, who has met twice this week with Mr. Reid, said it would be "very difficult" for him to support any proposal that creates a national plan -- even one that allows states to opt out. The Nebraska Democrat wants to empower states to experiment with their own public plans, he said, "the nature of which would be determined by the states, not the federal government."

Legislation approved by the Senate Finance Committee last week didn't include a public option, and instead proposed to create a network of nonprofit health cooperatives to compete with private insurers.

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