The Blue Dogs have been surveying their membership over the last several days; coalition co-chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) has been collecting the responses. She listed the four top priorities that have emerged: Keeping the cost under $900 billion, not moving at a faster pace than the Senate, getting a 20-year cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office and addressing regional disparities in Medicare reimbursement rates.
So, the Huffington Post asked, the public option is not a top priority?
"Right, the group is somewhat split," she said....
The lack of concerted, ideological opposition to a public option opens the possibility for negotiations in the House. Blue Dogs, along with other rural lawmakers, very much want an increase in Medicare reimbursement rates in certain areas to fix what they see as a disparity.
"If the Medicare rates were adjusted, I think there would be less resistance to tying the public option to Medicare rates," said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.).....
Herseth Sandlin said that despite the survey, the Blue Dog position remains as it has been. "We have not moved back from the position we took previously, which is: if you're going to include a public option, it should be structured to ensure a level playing field, negotiated rates and [be] subject to a trigger."
The rub, of course, is keeping that cost under $900 billion, getting that 20 year CBO estimate, and raising Medicare reimbursement rates all at the same time, while still providing maximum coverage and affordability, is going to be a challenge for lawmakers. But, there's also not as much cohesion as the Blue Dogs usually show, with "somewhat less than a dozen" could support a public option based on surveys returned so far. So the question becomes, in light of this report, are they likely to muster enough numbers in opposition to stop it? It doesn't look likely.