Public plan option still on the table as healthcare reform debate continues

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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) says all healthcare reform plans are still up for discussion. Meanwhile, Democrats on Capitol Hill are working to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a reform package, according to recent news reports.

Under House and Senate resolutions passed late last week, Democratic lawmakers would be required to submit healthcare reform bills for consideration no later than October 15, The Washington Post reported. Through the budget reconciliation process, Senate Democrats would only need a simple majority to pass their legislation, not the 60-vote super majority currently required. Baucus has indicated that he will continue to work on legislation he hopes will be accepted on both sides of the aisle, according to The New York Times. The reconciliation process, which would help Democrats fast-track passage of their plan, has drawn anger from Republicans, who believe they would be left out of the process. Healthcare reform is a hot issue in Washington of late. Long-term care has been champing at the bit to be included in the process.   

A major point of contention in the ongoing healthcare reform debate is the possibility of a government-run "public plan" insurance option. Opponents say this will harness the unequaled negotiating power of the federal government to provide healthcare insurance at such a low cost to the consumer that it will drive private insurers out of business. Baucus said there may be a number of ways to have both public and private plans, and that lawmakers are considering all options, but that a public insurance plan is still on the negotiating table.