On Thursday Senator Kent Conrad, who is both chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of Finance, unveiled a new proposal designed to forge a compromise on the public plan issue: The idea would be to set up non-profit, co-operative insurers--or maybe one non-profit, co-operative insurer for the whole country--that would compete with the rest of the insurance industry. Ezra Klein interviewed Conrad about this yesterday and it is, I think, the best source for understanding what Conrad has in mind.
Does his idea seem intriguing and worth trying? Yup. Does it substitute for a public plan? Nope. At least not as currently described. More on that later.