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Govs Now Major Players In Health Care Debate; Corzine Wouldn't Opt Out

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Now that the Senate leadership has settled on a health-care reform proposal that includes a public insurance option with an opt-out clause for states, some attention is shifting to the nation's governors.

There appears to be no clear consensus -- even among Democrats. Several weeks ago, 22 Democratic governors sent a letter to Congress urging them to move forward with health reform. There was no specific reference to a public option nor, for that matter, a public option that would allow states to remove themselves from the system. Even so, six governors, as noted by Talking Points Memo's Christina Bellantoni, were conspicuously absent from the list of signatories.

Among Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Virginia candidate Creigh Deeds has gone so far as to suggest that -- should he be elected -- he would consider removing the state from the public option system.

New Jersey's Democratic Governor Jon Corzine, however, is leaving no such confusion. I asked his spokesperson Elisabeth Smith for a comment on her boss's position on an opt-out provision and she replied: "Governor Corzine has been an outspoken supporter of the public option. He would not opt out of it, as the public option is a critical piece of making health reform sustainable and holding private health insurance companies accountable."

Corzine, of course, is running in a state with far more progressive sensibilities than Virginia. But, among Democratic strategists, there was angst with Deeds after he expressed his skepticism with the public plan.

With the Senate settling on a health care plan that gives significant say to the states, expect Democratic governors to play an increasingly important and leading role in pushing health care reform across the finish line.