Senators on a key committee are putting the finishing touches on a government health insurance option that they hope will win broad support among Democrats and the public.
According to a draft summary circulating Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee proposal calls for a nationwide plan to be run by the federal government. An upfront loan from taxpayers would get the plan started, but it would have to pay its own way after a few months, relying on premiums collected from beneficiaries to stay solvent.
The public plan would be offered alongside private coverage through new insurance purchasing pools called exchanges. The government option would have to follow the same consumer protection rules as private plans it competes with.
The idea of government medical coverage for middle-class workers and their families has become the hottest issue in the debate over how to overhaul the health care system. President Barack Obama and most Democrats say the choice of a public plan would serve to balance the power of private insurers. But insurance companies see it as a step toward a government takeover, and many business groups agree. Polls indicate public support for a government option.