Friday, December 4, 2009

Ditch the public option (II)

Ezra Klein has a good piece on the public option, and the politics thereof. I spent a couple months canvassing and organizing for health care reform and a public option with USPIRG. I can understand the frustration from liberals (sorry, progressives, but that's a rant discussion for another time) who worked so hard for a robust public option. Unfortunately, right now a really good public option is not politically viable. It just doesn't have the votes. It might have 51 votes, though I'm not even sure of that, but it certainly doesn't have 60.

In August, I attended a briefing on health care by one of the higher-ups at USPIRG. His basic point was that the public option is not the end in itself, but a vehicle to facilitate the other reforms that they want to see. A strong public option in addition to measures that bring down the cost of health care for everyone would be ideal, but if the reforms are mandated without a public option, they could live with it.

The reforms in the current bill aren't as far-reaching as they would be in an ideal world, and the public option has been thoroughly neutered. The public option has become a symbol to the left wing of the Democratic party, but that is its primary value. It might be better for Democrats from a political perspective to pass a bill with something called a public option in it. It would energize the currently lethargic Democratic base, certainly helping the Dems in 2010. But from a policy perspective, if losing the public option would allow Congress to improve key parts of the bill, like subsidies for low-income folks, changing the incentives for providers and comparative effectiveness research for Medicare payments, it will probably be a better bill in the end.

It's depressing to think that all those doors we knocked on didn't get us a public option, but the reality is that this may in fact be a better bill without it.

1 comment:

  1. It looks like Harry Reid is following your advice.