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The Man Who Would Have Been HHS Secretary Abandons Government-Run Option

10:05 AM, Jun 18, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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In yet another blow to the Democrats' grand unified vision of gigantic, transformative health care reform passed in a matter of weeks, with a government-run option, Tom Daschle publicized a plan yesterday-without a government-run option.

He's joining with fellow former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker and Bob Dole to put forth a bipartisan compromise:

"While I feel very strongly that consumers should have the choice of a national, Medicare-like plan, my colleagues do not. . . But we were concerned that the ongoing health reform debate is beginning to show signs of fracture on the public plan issue, so in order to advance the process of developing bipartisan legislation and to move it forward, it's time to find consensus here," Daschle said.

"We've come too far and gained too much momentum for our efforts to fail over disagreements on one single issue," he said.

In a blow to President Obama and many of his Democratic allies in the health care fight, the plan recommends that there be no federal public option, but rather state or regional public-sponsored networks that would compete with private health plans, according to the summary released today by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The proposed plan would cost $1.2 trillion over 10 years, even without the "public" option, which gives you an idea of the territory we'd be creeping into with a government-run plan. The proposal, which can be read here, is very detailed and proposes to pay for all $1 trillion of the cost by realizing savings, instituting "play-or-pay" taxes on businesses that don't offer health insurance, and cutting Medicare and Medicare Advantage spending. How they're going to cover the other $200 billion is more hazy, but they offer ideas.

This plan suggests a health care mandate for individuals (something Dole had to compromise on), state insurance "exchanges," and comparative effectiveness studies, among other reforms.