Wyden open to alternative public option

A key liberal Democratic senator in the healthcare debate on Thursday said he would be open to considering a proposed alternative public option to be unveiled next week. 

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said that he would consider any plan that would increase choices in the health insurance market.

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Asked on ABC News' "Topline" webcast if he would consider supporting the so-called "Plan B" public option, Wyden said "I'm open to a variety of iterations with respect of how to do this."

Wyden -- a member of the Senate Finance Committee -- has long supported measures that allow more people to participate in the government-run public healthcare plans.

"The bottom line is you need choices to hold insurance companies accountable," he said, adding that the public option cannot be a "healthcare ghetto" that limits too strictly the amount of people who can gain access.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tasked Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) to draft an alternative public option that might have a better chance of attracting the 60 votes necessary to break a Republican filibuster. Carper has been working on variations of the public option for months.

Carper has recently touted a so-called "hammer" public option that he believes answers centrists' criticisms that the public option in Reid's bill is government-run and government-funded. The public option would be enacted in states where insurance companies fail to meet standards of availability and affordability of plans.

The senator won a key concession from Reid in November that helped secure his vote on the bill's first procedural vote last month.

Reid allowed Wyden's amendment that would permit more people to opt out of their employer-based coverage in favor of a public plan.