Budget deal kills ObamaCare program once seen as alternative to the "public option" 

Last Friday's budget deal has killed a program that is a part of the national health care law that was once seen as an alternative to the controversial government-run plan, or "public option," House Republicans disclosed this morning.

One of the key stumbling blocks to passing the national health care law was the debate over including a government-run option on the new government exchanges to compete with the private insurance policies. Liberals saw it as essential to keeping down costs and putting a check on private insurers, but Democrats could not come up with the votes in the Senate.

One alternative idea, first advanced by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., was to create non-profit "co-ops" on the exchanges, that would compete with private insurers but not be run by government. Liberal critics pounced, arguing that while co-ops were fine to include, they wouldn't be a replacement for the public option because they lacked the leverage and bargaining power of government. Conservatives were suspicious of the idea. The fact that the co-ops would be given government money to pay for startup costs suggested that they could evolve into a stealth public option.

Ultimately, a weaker version of the co-ops made it into the legislation, called Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans, but House Republicans say the current budget deal "terminates" the program.

They also say that the deal kills another program, called the "Free Choice Voucher," which required employers to provide a voucher to certain qualified employees to purchase health insurance on the exchanges.

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