Senate leaders in a meeting today with President Barack Obama discussed alternatives to a government-backed health plan, with the White House signaling flexibility on several options except for one: the timeline. Were shopping, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), who is chairing the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee in the absence of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), told reporters.
Dodd said that Obama urged the committees to keep working. The one thing he said he wouldn't accept is not getting the job done. To be sure, a public health plan is still an option, Dodd said, but vocal Republican opposition has forced several more options to emerge.
On Tuesday Dodds committee introduced a 615-page bill that left open a section for coverage options. The omission was intentional, he said, adding that his personal preference would be to include a strong public plan.
One option, which has raised eyebrows among both Democrats and Republicans, centers on a co-op approach, where individuals, small businesses and other entities could band together and use their numbers to better negotiate with providers and payers. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said he raised that option with the president. At least one influential Republican has signaled support. Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, called it a very creative plan.