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Public Option More Essential Than Ever

George Stephanopoulis says the public option is dead. So does the New York Times. It’s become common wisdom in the village press that Obama must reach a deal with Republicans and drop the public option in doing so.

Funny, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer didn’t get this memorandum. Nor did Obama, who’s capitalizing on progressive rage at the MSM’s unquestioning stenography of right-wing talking points to raise money for reform efforts.

In fact, the real picture is quite different from the one the village sees. Ezra Klein lays out the two competing camps in the White House thusly:

The first camp could be called “universal-lite.” They’re focused on preserving the basic shape of the bill. They think a universal plan is necessary for a number of reasons: For one thing, the insurance market regulations don’t work without universality, as you can’t really ask insurers to offer standard prices if the healthy and the young don’t have to enter the system. For another, it will be easier to change subsidies or improve the benefit package down the road if the initial offerings prove inadequate. New numbers are easier than new features. Creating a robust structure is the most important thing. This camp seems to be largely headed by the policy people.

The second camp is not universal at all. This camp believes the bill needs to be scaled back sharply in order to ensure passage. Covering 20 million people isn’t as good as covering 40 million people, but it’s a whole lot better than letting the bill fall apart and covering no one at all. It’s also a success of some sort, and it gives you something to build on. What that sacrifices in terms of structure it gains in terms of political appeal. This camp is largely headed by members of the political team.

Bob Cesca read that last night and commented:

While there’s no mention of where the public option stands between these factions inside the White House, if they want healthcare reform to pass, it will have to include a public option. That’s that. And the “universal-lite” camp had better be pushing for the public option because it’s clearly in support of individual mandates.

Why is he so confident? Maybe because the public option SAVES $400 BILLION:

When the CBO scored an early draft of the health care form bill from the Senate HELP committee as costing $1 trillion over 10 years but only covering one-third of the uninsured, obstructionists pounced and proclaimed the public plan option dead.

But the CBO had not assessed the cost of the public plan option, nor a mandate on most employers to either provide insurance or contribute to the public plan.

Now they have. And as serious reform advocates long claimed, including those two key provisions drops the 10-year cost of reform by nearly $400 billion, while achieving near universal coverage.

As for the bill’s chances of passage, Chris Bowers at OpenLeft has done journeyman’s work in tallying the Senate whip count, concluding that:

not a single Senate Democrat, nor Republican Olympia Snowe, has come out in opposition to the public option. Our whip count shows that the only two “no” votes in our target universe are Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins and Connecticut Connecticut for Lieberman Senate Joe Lieberman (that is actually the correct way to describe Lieberman, I believe). Counting Ted Kennedy’s replacement, that still leaves 60 Senators who are either “yes” or “maybe” on the public option.

Bowers can add Senator Blanche Lincoln, D-AR, to the noes list for the public option — but not necessarily for cloture. And there is still time for Lincoln to be persuaded once again, especially since Obama will address a joint session of Congress on the 9th.

I expect Obama will remind Congress of his goals for reform: it must provide affordable, quality coverage for everyone while controlling costs. He will stress the urgency of the problem, call out the tinfoil-hat lunacy, and say once again that reform is “not about me.”

But more importantly, I fully expect Obama will state exactly what he wants in a reform package — and I’ll bet dollars to donuts he will include a public option. And he’ll do it in full confidence of getting what he wants.

Socialize this!
  • Annette

    Thanks Matt, I get so frustrated over this.. and tonight even Keith was saying the PO is dead.. I just can't believe these people.. I went on a rant of my own again today… I am tired of Jubal, Lee and Terri and all the others on this kick of forget the Public Option why did the President sell us out by refusing to ask for Single Payer.. well we would all like that, but he knew politically it would never fly, that's why he used it as his first bargaining point… can't they see that?

    Anyway.. thanks again for this post.. it is great and you are spot on..

  • libhom

    If Obama drops the public option, liberals and progressives should give up on him and just work in the long, hard battle for single payer.

  • Matt Osborne

    libhom, if Obama gives up on the public option you can bet I will do just that.

    Furthermore, even if he comes out swinging for a strong public option, I will still push for single-payer.

    If the public option passes, I will advocate single-payer.

    As I've written before, the public option really is the road TO single-payer. I know this position is controversial with single-payer advocates, but I haven't lost faith yet.