The Obama administration has indicated it might be willing to drop the public option to its health insurance plan -- a compromise that many see as a political necessity.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said choice and competition will be in healthcare reform, but she indicated an option for government run health insurance may not.
"I think there will be a competitor to private insurers," Sebelius said. "That's really the essential part, is you don't turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing. We need some choices. We need some competition."
The possibility of government competing directly with private health insurers has alarmed critics of the Obama overhaul. Many lawmakers welcome the compromise.
"Look, the fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. "There never have been. So to continue to chase that rabbit, I think, is just a wasted effort."
Instead of a government-run insurance program -- competition may come in the form of insurance co-operatives. The cooperatives would be jump started by the government, but then would be expected to operate on their own.
"It's not a public plan at all in the sense that government runs it," said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. "Government has nothing to do with it. Once it's established, it is run by the members."
The White House has also backed away from talk in the bill about death panels. Critics said the bill would essentially create a bureaucratic panel that would make end of life decisions for elderly Americans.
The co-op plan is a work in progress, so there are not many details available. But the fact the White House is willing to look at the deal may be enough to silence some of the critics.