House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)(L-MD) speaks at a press conference in Washington, March 18, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday he could back a bill to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system without a so-called public option that would create a government-run insurance program.

Hoyer reiterated his support for a public option, but said he believed meaningful legislation to expand coverage could pass without it.

Hoyer's comments came a week after the top House Democrat, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said real change would require a public option, which Republicans, insurance companies and some centrist Democrats oppose. She also predicted that a healthcare bill without a public option would not win House passage.