Will the public option make it in to health reform or not? Harry Reid’s hard at work in the Senate trying to merge his HELP bill, which includes a public option, with Max Baucus’ Senate Finance bill, which does not. But the real interesting merger will involve the House and Senate bills during conference, because the House bill in all its marked-up versions contains a public option.
Now, if Reid puts the public option into the Senate bill, it seems likely that the conference report will include a public option, but what if Reid makes some concessions to Baucus and the Senate bill lacks a public option? After all, this seems plausible, since Baucus’ bill is the most favorable in terms of its total cost as scored by the Congressional Budget Office. Or is it?
The word in Washington is that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is hard at work to get the CBO to score the amended House bill in hopes that she will be able to present a bill that does more to cover the uninsured at a comparable cost to Baucus’ bill, all while including a public option. If she can do that, it would seem, then Democrats and perhaps even some moderate Republicans would be hard-pressed to vote against the public option. This is a “bang-for-the-buck” approach. We know reform will be expensive, but if Pelosi can demonstrate that a public option does more (i.e., covers more people) with the same amount of money, she–and the public option–just might be hard to say no to.