Sen. Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) proposed healthcare compromise is "an idea worth serious consideration," a key centrist Blue Dog Democrat said Monday.

Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) said that nonprofit health cooperatives proposed in the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare bill are a good alternative a the public (or "government-run") healthcare option, against with Ross had come out.

"While I remain opposed to a government-run public option, I believe this health care co-op is an idea worth serious consideration," Ross wrote in a newsletter to constituents. "As long as the idea is deficit-neutral, I believe it is one worth exploring because we must do something about the rising costs of health insurance before any more hard-working Arkansans lose their job or their coverage through no fault of their own."

Ross is the head of the Blue Dogs' healthcare task force, and his preliminary support for the FInance Committee's bill could bolster compromise legislation while hardening battle lines within the House Democratic Caucus.

Liberals in the House, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have long maintained that any bill to escape the House must include the public option. But Ross and other centrist Democrats have been reluctant to support such a provision.

And although Baucus bill has received a chilly reception in the Senate, Ross offered Monday some of the strongest words of support for the legislation, which eschewed the public option in favor of co-ops, in order to win over centrist Democrats and some Republicans.

"As the Senate Finance Committee considers its new legislation, I will be watching closely and will be listening to you," Ross wrote to constituents. "As always, I will not support a health care reform bill until I have carefully read and researched the bill and talked it over with you, my constituents."