Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee subcommittee on health care, unveiled some details of what he calls a "strong" public plan that will be part of the finance committee's health care mark.
Details remain sketchy. The plan will be offered to all employers and employees through the national health care insurance exchange. Its administrator, to be appointed by the president, will be firewalled from the various private options; he or she will be empowered to make the plan as competitive as possible. The plan will initially be small: it will be funded solely through the contributions of those who join it. The government will provide the same sliding subsidies for the public plan as they'll offer for the private options.
What's included in the plan? No details yet, although there will be plenty of coverage for preventative measures and the plan will experiment with various efficiency mechanisms.
The upshot: this is a "weak" public plan, not a strong one -- it's the type of public plan that the health insurance industry can deal with, because it's not going to be given extra funding or subject to fewer regulations by the government.