Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Friday that he will oppose legislation that would give people the option of a public health insurance plan. The move puts him on the opposite side of two-thirds of Americans.
A poll released this week by Consumer Reports National Research Center showed that 66 percent of Americans back the creation of a public health plan that would compete with private plans. Nelson, in comments made to CQ, joins the 16 percent of poll respondents who said they oppose the plan.
Nelson's problem, he told CQ, is that the public plan would be too attractive and would hurt the private insurance plans. "At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game," Nelson said. Including a public option in a health plan, he said, was a "deal breaker."
A Nelson spokesman didn't return a call for comment.
As he so often does, Nelson said, according to CQ, that he planned to form a "coalition of like-minded centrists opposed to the creation of a public plan, as a counterweight to Democrats pushing for it."
That coalition will not include 16 Democratic senators who signed a letter calling for a public plan earlier this week, including Senate leaders Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.).
If Democrats use the reconciliation process to pass health care reform, however, Nelson's vote would not be needed, as only a simple majority could pass the legislation.
Ryan Grim is the author of the forthcoming book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America