Sen. Kay Hagan, on a conference call with reporters about her financial literacy bill, took a couple of questions on the health care reform debate as well. Health care costs are rising at rates that are unsustainable over the long run, Hagan said. On the other hand, she’s “extremely concerned” about the prospective costs of health care reform legislation that should, she went on, assure that every American has access to affordable care “through life’s ups and downs.”

I asked her what she thinks about the “public option” proposed by President Obama, a federal insurance plan that would compete with private coverage in the marketplace and, as Obama argued in his press conference yesterday, be a check on what private insurers can charge.

Hagan said she’s among those — “a number of us” — who are looking instead at the idea of public plans in every state, with administration at the state level. “I think that in something this large,” she said, “the states should have a hand in it.”

State-level plans might be called “public” or be publicly-administered “coops”, she said, but the idea is that they would be available to anyone who can’t find good coverage in the private market.

Hagan is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), which is trying to produce a bill spelling out how health-care reform should work. The Senate Finance Committee, she noted, is working on how to pay for it. A week ago, Jane Hamsher at reported that Hagan and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, were refusing to sign on to a bill that includes a public option. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, was refusing to support a bill without a public option. With committee chair Sen. Ted Kennedy on the mend back in Massachusetts, the upshot is that this 12-10 Democratic majority committee hasn’t been able to reach agreement on anything so far.