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Robust option a bust in House bill?

From NBC's Mike Viqueira
It appears that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top House Democrats will hold an event tomorrow morning to announce the outline of the House health-care bill that they will move to the floor.

And it looks like the "robust" public option is a bust: The measure is not expected to include the reimbursement rate to medical professions based on Medicare, plus 5%. Instead, it will include a public option based on rates negotiated region by region.

The event is tentatively scheduled for 10:00 am Thursday on the west front of the Capitol.

If you haven't been following this debate, "robust" vs. "not robust" may seem like a small distinction. After all, the bill WILL have a public option.


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Companies like Verizon and J.P. Morgan Chase argue that the public option could drive up health care costs.

But liberals have been fighting tooth and nail to have it based on "Medicare plus 5." They insist that this will be the best way to introduce price competition into the "exchange" of plans, where those who do not get employer-based coverage can go to shop for a plan. They call this "robust."

But moderates, many from rural areas, have balked. They say that their constituents will suffer from the lower rates, because that will make it harder to attract doctors. They say their hospitals will suffer shortfalls as well.

Progressives have been very frustrated with Pelosi and leadership. They think they should have pushed harder. But leadership says the votes simply aren't there. So the progressives will be ultimately faced with a choice of either voting nay and killing the whole thing, or going along. Pelosi is betting they won't bring down the whole bill for the sake of the "robust" public option.

The Senate public option favored by Harry Reid is also based on negotiated rates, by the way.

Tomorrow's event is not a done deal yet. Word leaked out after the speaker's staff sent out an e-mail to allied groups asking for attendance out on the steps tomorrow morning. Republicans got their hands on it and helpfully sent it all around to reporters.

Besieged by reporters moments ago, progressive leader Lynn Woolsey, a California congresswoman, was noncommittal about her support for the non-robust plan.