Depending on how you read it, the public option in health care legislation could be dead or just sidelined.
The Washington Post explains, "Under the deal, the government plan preferred by liberals would be replaced with a program that would create several national insurance policies administered by private companies but negotiated by the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees health policies for federal workers. If private firms were unable to deliver acceptable national policies, a government plan would be created."
The NY Times describes it this way: "Under the agreement, people ages 55 to 64 could 'buy in' to Medicare. And a federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management, would negotiate with insurance companies to offer national health benefit plans, similar to those offered to federal employees, including members of Congress. If these private plans did not meet certain goals for making affordable coverage available to all Americans, Senate Democratic aides said, then the government itself would offer a new insurance plan, somewhat like the 'public option' in the bill [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid unveiled three weeks ago."
Here are some more details from Talking Points Memo, which adds the White House seems to support the deal. Reid was optimistic about legislation passing—"Not everyone will agree to every piece we sent over there. But believe me that we've got something that's good...it moves this bill way down the road"— but it seems that the House, which passed legislation with a public option, might be up for a fight.