House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled Wednesday that she is open to health care reform that doesn't include a public option, "a strong signal that Congress could agree on a plan early next year," McClatchy reports. "Asked if she could support a bill that didn't have the public option, Pelosi said, 'It depends on what else is in the bill.' Her attitude is similar to that of many others who've pushed a public option. The mantra now among top Democrats is to find areas of agreement on health care, put them in the bill, declare victory and work in the months and years ahead to fashion something broader. ... Pelosi urged looking at the areas of House-Senate agreement, such as barring insurers from charging consumers more or cutting off coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or requiring nearly everyone to obtain coverage" (Lightman, 12/16).
CQ HealthBeat: "[T]he Senate version could include a system of competing national private health insurance plans to be administered by the federal Office of Personnel Management, which currently manages benefits for federal employees. While that is a far cry from the public option that the House included in the bill it narrowly passed in early September, Pelosi indicated that it may be a satisfactory alternative. 'We have to see what this OPM piece is,' she said. Some House liberals say they will insist on a public option in the final bill" (Epstein, 12/16).
Leaders of the House's Congressional Progressive Caucus are perturbed that the White House hasn't responded to their request for a meeting with President Obama on the Senate health deal, Roll Call reports. "House liberals are in an uproar over the agreement between the White House and Senate Democrats to strip the bill of a plan to allow people as young as 55 to join Medicare. ... 'We’ve had no contact with [the White House] on this issue, and we could be the bane in this,' Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said. ... 'The House sent the Senate a silk purse and got back a sow’s ear. It’s just not going to work'" he said (Koffler, 12/16).
Roll Call reports in a separate story that Blue Dog Democrats in the House are eyeing a deal of their own. Blue Dogs had problems with the House bill but "(w)ith the Senate bill expected to come in both cheaper and without the public plan, some of those Blue Dogs say they plan to take a fresh look at the bill" (Dennis, 12/17).
The Hill reports, meanwhile, that some liberal House Democrats are easing off their threats to kill the health reform bill. "House Democrats and liberal interest groups are hoping to win a few concessions in conference, which is expected to wrap up in time for Obama to tout the completed bill during his first State of the Union address in January. … 'We need that left pressure,' said Waxman, who added that senators need to understand that 'we’re not just going to take their bill but we’re going to work to make it better'" (Bolton, 12/16).