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CNN Poll: 61% Favor Public Option

Democrats are promoting a national survey released this afternoon by CNN/Opinion Research (Oct. 16-18, 1038 A, MoE +/- 3%), which finds 61% of Americans in favor of a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private insurance companies. The poll comes as the House and Senate are each merging separate health care reform bills for an eventual vote on the chamber floors.

At a morning press conference, CNN's Dana Bash asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid whether the fact that six-in-10 Americans approve of a public option has any effect on whether it would be included in the Senate plan. Reid refused to answer, as he remains deep in negotiations with Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), whose bill does not include the option, and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who as the acting chairman of the HELP Committee included the option in his committee's bill.

The press conference was held to announce that Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009 will be introduced as an amendment to the eventual bill that reaches the Senate floor. The amendment would strip insurance companies of their antitrust exemption status, which Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) described as "an accident of American history."

Schumer said that in 40 states, two insurance companies dominate the market, allowing them to raise health care costs on consumers . "This exemption is antiquated, out of date, and doesn't belong," he said. "We can't pass effective health care reform if we don't hold health insurance companies to the same standards as other American industries."

The CNN poll found 49% favor President Obama's health care plan overall, while 49% oppose it. However, when asked which would be better for the country, passing a bill similar to Obama's plan or leaving the current system in place with no changes, 53% say Obama's plan would be better compared with 44% who say nothing should change.

The 61% of Americans in favor of the public option is up 5 points since late August.