OPM could get role running national health plan

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said Sunday a proposal to create a national insurance plan modeled after the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program administered by the Office of Personnel Management is no longer being considered an alternative to the public option, but rather a separate proposal, which she supports.

"It was originally, I think, an alternative but I think it's not that," Snowe said, noting that the change occurred late Saturday night. "It's just a different dimension offering national plans and small business exchanges."

The OPM-administered plan is based on a proposal Snowe and others have made previously that would create a small business health plan modeled after the federal employee benefits program.

Snowe said she is working on the proposal, which would also be offered to individuals, as an amendment with a group of that includes Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, both Democrats from Arkansas.

Snowe said she would not support allowing states to opt out of the OPM plan in the way Reid has structured the public option in the pending bill.

A group of 10 moderate and liberal Democrats continued meeting Sunday night to forge a public option compromise. They indicated they would work through the night to get a deal, but Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., one of the negotiators, was skeptical that a final agreement would emerge late Sunday.

Reid is unlikely to file any cloture motion in an effort to force a vote on health care legislation until he knows that a deal will be in place before the vote, Senate aides said. In a news conference Reid said he was not sure when he will file cloture.

"We're not there yet," Reid said. "We're working hard to find out when we're gonna start the procedural process to finish this legislation."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said on the floor Sunday that "final passage" is "probably a week or eight days down the road." Nelson said later he thinks that after "one more weekend ... it will start to wear."

But Reid aides downplayed that timeline, saying the goal remains to pass the bill before Christmas.

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