Today, it looks like the Obama Administration is likely to drop the public option that is included in most versions of healthcare reform in Congress.
While a centerpiece of many Democratic proposals, the public option has come under increasing fire from Republicans and Independents who do not want the government further involved in healthcare. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) stated that: "The fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option. There never have been," he said. "So to continue to chase that rabbit I think is just a wasted effort."
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today that "A public option is not an essential element." One compromise that is currently being looked at is to have private co-ops, which would replace the public option. These co-ops would start off with government funds, and then slowly faze out. Republicans appear willing to consider the possibility of the co-op plan.
While Congress still has not decided on a bill, debate rages on about what to do about healthcare reform. Town hall meetings have exploded in recent weeks and public opinion has moved against the public option. It appears that with the comments from Democrats today, that in order to salvage reform efforts, the White House is ready to compromise on the public option.