Reports Flying About Deal To “Drop Public Option”

You may know this by now, but Harry Reid just faced the cameras and said there was a broad agreement on a deal among the “Gang of Ten” Democratic Senators, though it’s unclear what that deal exactly is. Reid said it had been sent to the CBO for scoring.

The AP says that the deal would “drop the public option,” though Reid has denied that. Tom Harkin was in the room as one of the gang of ten, and he doesn’t sound thrilled at all.

Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa told reporters he didn’t like the agreement but would support it to the hilt in an attempt to pass health care legislation.

On Rachel Maddow’s show, Bernie Sanders is talking about the different pieces out there, familiar to anyone following this in the past day, including coverage expansion of Medicaid and a plan to allow a buy-in of Medicare from ages 55-64. But he didn’t seem to know what was in the bill.

More when I have it.

UPDATE: This is the sum total of Reid’s statement.

“This has been a long journey. We have confronted many hurdles, and tonight I believe we have overcome yet another one.

“I asked Senators Schumer and Pryor to work with some of the most moderate and most progressive members of our diverse caucus, and tonight they have come to a consensus.

“It is a consensus that includes a public option and will help ensure the American people win in two ways: one, insurance companies will face more competition, and two, the American people will have more choices.

“I know not all 10 Senators in the room agree on every single detail of this, nor will all 60 members of my caucus. But I know we all appreciate the hard work that these progressives and moderates have done to move this historic debate forward.

“I want to thank Senators Schumer, Pryor, Brown, Carper, Feingold, Harkin, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson and Rockefeller for working together for the greater good and never losing sight of our shared goal: making it possible for every American to afford to live a healthy life.

“As is long-standing practice, we do not disclose details of any proposal before the Congressional Budget Office has a chance to evaluate it. We will wait for that to happen, but in the meantime, tonight we are confident.”

Presumably this would get passed through a manager’s amendment, which means 60 votes would be required.

UPDATE II: NYT now says there’s a trigger.

Democratic aides said that the group had tentatively agreed on a proposal that would replace a government-run health care plan with a menu of new national, privately-run insurance plans modeled after the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, which covers more than eight million federal workers, including members of Congress, and their dependents.

A government-run plan would be retained as a fall-back option, the aides said, and would be triggered only if the new proposal failed to meet targets for providing affordable insurance coverage to a specified number of people.

The agreement would also allow Americans between age 55 and 64 to buy coverage through Medicare, beginning in 2011.

Ryan Grim has two additional elements, the Medicaid expansion and an expansion of Maria Cantwell’s Basic Health Plan:

The discussion has focused on abandoning or greatly narrowing the public health insurance option. In exchange, people 55-64 would be able to buy in to Medicare and Medicaid eligibility would be expanded to people within 150 percent of the federal poverty line. And people within 300 percent of poverty would be eligible for a program pushed by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) modeled on her state’s Basic Health. Cantwell is not one of the ten in the meetings but has stopped by to brief negotiators.

Senators, after the meeting, would not confirm which elements of the discussion were sent to CBO. Much will depend on the results of the CBO analysis.

Interestingly, Russ Feingold, who was in the room for the negotiations, released a statement that certainly sounds like he’s going to vote against the bill:

“While I appreciate the willingness of all parties to engage in good-faith discussions, I do not support proposals that would replace the public option in the bill with a purely private approach. We need to have some competition for the insurance industry to keep rates down and save taxpayer dollars. I will base my vote on the bill on the entirety of what is in the bill, and whether I think the bill is good for Wisconsin.”

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