POLITICS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Schumer: Opt-Out Public Option Being "Very Seriously Considered"

A health care compromise that would establish a national public option for insurance coverage that individual states could opt out of, is being "very seriously considered" by Senate Democrats, a key Democratic lawmakers said on Thursday.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC that he and his colleagues have discussed the "opt-out" public option compromise as a way to get a bill past a Republican filibuster. The proposal is designed to get the support of progressive members of the Democratic Caucus -- who are committed to a government-run insurance option -- and conservative Democrats who are worried about what a public plan would have on the private markets in their states.

"[The opt-out] is one of the things being very seriously considered," said Schumer. "I'm not going to -- we have a range of things we're considering. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and I met for quite a while last night and made progress and talked to a large number of members last night, yesterday. And I am optimistic that there will be some kind of public option in the bill the president signs. I'm very optimistic."

In private, aides on Capitol Hill say that the opt-out option remains one of several proposals being debating as a compromise to a straightforward national public plan. But, they add, it is quickly winning plaudits within the caucus. A senior aide said that Schumer was taking the lead on negotiating the compromise approach -- along with Carper -- and noted the significance of having the New York Democrat, who has been one of the most vocal supporters of a robust, national public plan out in front of the proposal. The aide also said that the opt-out proposal had been handed over to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday though the Nevada Democrat has yet to weigh in on its merits. "He will obviously consider it," the aide said.

Another Democratic aide said that the proposal is attracting attention within the Caucus in part because progressives view it is a better alternative to other compromise approaches.

"It is clearly much better than triggers and [Carper's] opt-ins," said Richard Kirsch, executive director of the group Health Care For Americans Now. "A trigger option is a way to kill the public option and these opt ins are not effective because it leaves it up to state legislatures to set it up..."

The "opt-in" compromise was originally put forward by Sen. Carper, after which, the aide said, a group of progressive lawmakers asked why the legislation didn't reverse the sequence, giving the states the right to rid themselves of a public plan rather than asking them to set one up themselves.

WATCH:

UPDATE: The opt-out proposal is, as conceived, a compromise approach to win over the support of conservative Democrats. Whether Republican Senators support the measure would be an added bonus, Hill aides say. And, indeed, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggests to the Huffington Post that it's unlikely that any GOPers will come on board.

"While Republicans support health care reform, they don't support a new government plan," said Don Stewart, a McConnell spokesperson, when asked about the opt-out idea.

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