Obama May Drop Public Option Health Plan

Chicago After weeks of rowdy town hall protests by those opposed to government health care reform, particularly a public option. President Obama and members of his administration are now hinting that that provision may be dropped:

"That is not the essential element," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

At a town hall in Colorado, President Obama also suggested the public option he has been calling for might not be in a final bill. "The public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform. This is just one sliver of it."

"There are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option. There never have been," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D) North Dakota.

Senator Conrad is offering an alternative; public cooperatives not run by the government. The government would give non-profit co-ops money to get started and co-ops would use their buying power to negotiate for cheaper medical coverage.

But proponents say including the public option is the only way to ensure true health reform. "It would be very, very difficult, because without the public option, we'll have the same number of people uninsured," said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) Texas.

Howard Dean and other leaders in the Democratic Party are mounting a strong defense of the public option, saying the government option makes the system more fair.

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