This is significant:
Senate Democrats have abandoned plans to use a fast-track parliamentary strategy to avert a threatened Republican filibuster and pass a health care overhaul — a signal that they are considering major policy concessions to moderates.
The most significant of these could be restructuring or dropping altogether a proposed
government-run insurance plan — the so-called public option — that many liberals consider a necessary part of the overhaul.
One possible fallback is a proposal by Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., to create a government-sanctioned insurance plan that would be available only in states deemed to lack affordable private insurance plans. Under Carper’s plan, the insurance plan would be structured as a private nonprofit entity, run by a board appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate…
But Democratic leaders had used the threat of reconciliation to try to corral support for the health care bill from moderates in both parties. That tactic largely failed.
“I think the more people studied [reconciliation], the more people realized that is not a very good way to do substantive legislation,” said Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D…
In a meeting Nov. 16 with Democrats who support a Medicare-like public option, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., indicated that he did not plan to try to move a health bill through reconciliation, other Democrats said.
“I’m not going to quote him, but suffice to say, after the meeting was over I thought it was unlikely,” said Bob Casey, D-Pa.
Regan LaChapelle, a spokeswoman for Reid, said, “We are not ruling anything out, but Sen. Reid is continuing to work to put together a bill that will garner the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster…”
…[Carper’s] proposal is similar to one Maine Republican Olympia J. Snowe offered that would create a “trigger” for the public option, making it available only if private insurers fail to meet deadlines and targets for affordable insurance plans.
Carper said he was still discussing how the government would determine whether private insurance in a state is unaffordable. A bill the Finance Committee approved (S 1796) deems insurance unaffordable if premiums consume more than 10 percent of a policyholder’s income.
The government would lend money to the new nonprofit for startup costs. After that, Carper said, the plan would have to be self-sufficient.