Public option compromise may turn on federal employees' office

Throughout the health reform debate, the public option has been one of the hottest flash points, with those for and against the idea giving little ground. However, a new approach making use of the federal Office of Personnel Management has emerged that might potentially satisfy enough legislators to move things forward.

A group of five liberal and five moderate Democratic senators are proposing an alternative that would empower the federal Office of Personnel Management to run a new national health plan. The OPM would negotiate terms with private insurers, then contract with nonprofit entities established by the private sector to run the program.

This compromise could work because it contains a politically-attractive idea: it gives ordinary citizens access to the same type of insurance coverage that members of Congress and federal workers receive. At the same time, this proposal doesn't establish a competing non-governmental plan, an idea that has sparked a great deal of opposition.

Now, the question is whether this compromise--which seems quite artful to us--will degenerate into more arguments over which shade of gray is darkest. This proposal does seem to balance the concerns of stakeholders as well as any we've reviewed, however.

Get more background on this debate:
- read this Kaiser Health News piece

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SPOTLIGHT: Senators optimistic on public option
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