Republican support for a "public option" on healthcare

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports:

Nine Republicans members of the Senate Finance Committee wrote a letter to President Obama today rejecting the idea of a “public option” - that’s code for a government–run health insurance entity – to operate alongside private insurers in the marketplace.

But it is notable that there are ten Republicans on the Finance Committee. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine declined to sign the letter with her Republican colleagues.

“She felt it was too absolutist,” said Julia Wanzco, Snowe’s spokesperson. “Throughout this entire healthcare debate Sen. Snowe has consistently said that the market has to offer affordable solutions. If the markets fail then a public option would be necessary,” Wanzco said.

President Obama himself just recently signaled in a letter to Democrats in the Senate drafting health care reform legislation that he now strongly supports for a “public health insurance option operating alongside private plan.”

There are moderate Democrats like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu who are likely "No" votes for a public healthcare option. But no Democrat has dismissed it out of hand yet. With Sen. Snowe becoming more vocal in her support of a public option and Sen. Arlen Specter, now a Democrat, doing likewise, the road to 60 votes for a public health insurance option looks slightly more passable.

One of the signatories rejecting a public option is Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee who is still working with Democrats to search for a more bipartisan reform proposal even though Democrats seem to be writing their proposal without Republican input.

The end result of a public option, even alongside the current private health insurance industry, the Republicans write in their letter “would be a federal government takeover of our healthcare system, taking decisions out of the hands of doctors and patients and placing them in the hands of a Washington bureaucracy.”

For more on that argument, check out the talking points of the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, HERE.

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