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Conservative Health Care Group Declares "Victory"

One of the most outspoken opponents of the Democrats' health care reform plans is "declaring victory" over the public option and officially "stepping back" from the health care debate.

The group Conservatives for Patients' Rights, led by controversial former hospital executive Rick Scott, is taking out a full-page ad in the Washington Post on Wednesday with a picture of a public option gravestone marking the date Jan. 27, 2010 -- the date of President Obama's State of the Union address.

"In his State of the Union Address, the President didn't doom his Public Option health care plan with faint praise, he simply BURIED it with deafening silence," the ad reads. "Finally, those of us who opposed your government-run Public Option plan can close this chapter. By educating on the perils of your government-run Public Option plan, we achieved our goals to protect patients' rights and stop a government takeover of our health care choices."

Whether the public option as crafted by Democrats would amount to a "government takeover" depends on one's definition of "takeover." Only a limited number of citizens would have been able to sign up for the program, and the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would only serve 2 percent of the population.

Proponents of the public option have called it a way to keep the insurance industry in check, and the House included the plan in its version of health care reform. The Senate rejected the provision, however, making its chances of survival slim.

Progressives in Congress are not giving up on the public option, however. According to Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)'s office, more than 110 members of Congress have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid encouraging the Senate to take up the public option through a process called reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes for approval. Special Report: Health Care

The Democrats' current plan for health care reform is to pass the Senate bill in the House, and then pass a "fix it" bill via reconciliation. House Democrats are also planning to try to pass separate, smaller provisions before tackling the more comprehensive legislation. An aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) confirms that the House plans to vote next week on a bill to repeal health insurance company's antitrust exemption, CBS News Capitol Hill Producer Jill Jackson reports.

While Democrats say they will not give up their reform efforts, they are certainly putting the issue on the backburner. President Obama at a town hall meeting today said "let's get it done this year." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters today, "We plan to do health care this year, and do it as quickly as we can," reports CBS News Capitol Hill Producer John Nolen.

Scott of Conservatives for Patients' Rights, however, said his main objective has been accomplished.

"Although the health care debate is far from over, it is clear that the public option, which Conservatives for Patients' Rights viewed as 'patient enemy number one,' is dead," Scott said in a statement. "Accordingly, we're stepping back from the debate and taking a breather."

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