WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama and top aides have quietly stepped up talks with moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine on a scaled-back health care bill, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations.
The compromise plan would lack a government-run public health insurance option favored by Obama, but would leave the door open to adding that provision down the road under an idea proposed by Snowe, the sources said.
One of the sources said White House officials are “deep in conversations” with Snowe on a much smaller health care bill than Obama originally envisioned.
The modified proposal would include insurance reforms, such as preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, according to the source.
The potential deal would give insurance companies a defined period to make such changes in order to help cover more people and drive down long-term costs. But if those changes failed to occur within the defined period, a so-called “trigger” would provide for creating a public option to force change on the insurance companies, the source said.
Snowe is pivotal to the debate because she may be Obama’s last possibility for getting a Republican senator to support his push for a health care overhaul.
She is one of the so-called “Gang of Six” members of the Senate Finance Committee, three Democrats and three Republicans, involved in separate negotiations on the only bipartisan health care proposal in Congress so far.