"We in the House believe that the public option is the best way to hold insurance companies honest -- to keep them honest and also to increase competition," Pelosi said at a press conference today, reports CBS News Capitol Hill Producer Evelyn Thomas. "If there is a better way, put it on the table. As soon as we see something in writing from the Senate, we will be able to make a judgment about that."
Senate Democrats are currently considering a set of proposals -- including expanding Medicare and creating national, private plans for consumers -- in lieu of a public option. Some of the public option's strongest advocates, like former Democratic leader Howard Dean, have said they like the Senate plan. Liberal grassroots groups, however, are adamantly opposed to it.
Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), the one Republican who may vote for the health care overhaul, told reporters Thursday she could not support the plan to expand Medicare because the government program pays hospitals and doctors lower reimbursement rates than private insurers.
Even though the House bill passed with a public option, Pelosi said today the bills are "probably 75 percent compatible."
"We just have a few issues that we have to deal with," she said. Specifically, the House bill insures five million more people than the Senate bill. Additionally, it raises revenue through a tax on the wealthiest Americans while the Senate bill relies on an excise tax on high-premium insurance plans.
Pelosi said Democrats will ultimately judge their health reform bill by whether it provides affordable coverage for the middle class and security for seniors, closes the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole" and sustains the solvency of Medicare. She said she would be able to better judge the Senate bill once the Congressional Budget Office provides a cost estimate for it.
"Between their bill and our bill, I know one thing for sure, we will have a great bill when we put them together," Pelosi said.