Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s new announcement on the health overhaul front: the inclusion of a public plan option in the Senate’s soon-to-be announced final bill.
Reid settled on a state “opt-out” provision, which, as NPR’s Scott Hensley reports, could send the lone Republican supporter packing: “But Snowe cautioned her vote in favor of Baucus’s plans was just her vote for that day and not a guarantee of future support. Indeed, as Reid acknowledged Monday afternoon, Snowe ‘doesn’t like a public option of any kind.’ But, he hasn’t given up on her, ‘There will be a time, I hope, when she sees the wisdom of supporting a health-care bill” that includes a public option.’”
There’s plenty of time to keep lobbying Snowe, according to the New York Times’ David Herszenhorn: “Don’t get overexcited just yet. There’s still a long way to go. In the Great Health Care Debate of 2009, brief flashes of news, like Monday’s announcement by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, that he would include a government-run plan in the Senate bill, are typically preceded and followed by long stretches of waiting and waiting. And this week will be no exception.”
Moving onto the opinion blogosphere, a read of reactions across the ideological spectrum reveals a fundmental disagreement between conservatives and liberals over what Sen. Reid’s compromise really represents.
Hot Air’s Allah Pundit is unimpressed: “[Reid] hasn’t even sent the bill to CBO to be scored yet so I’m not sure what we’re supposed to react to here, aside from the left’s success in getting something with a public plan to the floor which (a) may not even have 60 votes behind it and (b) is almost guaranteed to lose The One’s very small fig leaf of bipartisan support as Olympia Snowe walks away.”
Connie Hair of Human Events thinks the term “opt-out” is a “facade”: “Reid also said his bill will include an ‘opt out’ at the state level which is a façade. Can individuals ‘opt out’ of the penalties and the mandatory coverage? Can individuals ‘opt out’ of paying for government-run health care for everyone else in the country in the form of higher premiums, higher taxes, and Medicare cuts? Can small business owners ‘opt out’ of the higher payroll taxes?”
Heritage’s Conn Carroll says, “Opt out, the trigger, and co ops will not get to government run health care immediately. They will all take time to develop. But no matter what road they try and bring Americans down, the destination is always the same: everybody in out, nobody out; that is, was, and always will be Obama’s ultimate goal.”
Bloggers on the left have a vastly different interpretation: the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein calls the opt-out plan “conservative:”
In many ways, this is a fundamentally conservative approach to a liberal policy experiment. It’s only offered to individuals eligible for the insurance exchanges, which is a small minority of the population. The majority of Americans who rely on employer-based insurance would not be allowed to choose the exchanges. From there, it is only one of many options on the exchange, and only in states that choose to have it. In other words, it has been designed to preserve the status quo and be decided on the state level. Philosophically, these are major compromises liberals have made on this plan. They should get credit for that.
Jonathan Cohn’s reaction? “Wow.” Cohn, The New Republic’s health policy maven, continues, “it is hard to overstate what a turnaround this is–or how quickly it happened. By late summer, passing any reform at all looked like a fifty-fifty proposition at best. And even as the political environment shifted, the public option looked doomed. It was going to take sixty votes to get a public option through the Senate. The votes just weren’t there. To be clear, they still aren’t there.”
Wonk Room’s Igor Volksy hews to his blog’s namesake by explaining what exactly the states could be opting-out from. According to Volksy, it could be a national public plan that pays Medicare rates plus 5% or a national public plan that negotiates its own rates with providers.
Volsky continues, “the other possibility — less likely given Reid’s reluctance to ask the CBO to score the proposal — is to combine the opt-out public option with a trigger — ensuring that states could only opt out of the public option if the private market offers meaningful and affordable coverage. Any opt-out proposal should also provide for a simple ‘opt-back-in process’ (mandating that state legislatures vote on the opt out every year, for instance.)”
Then there’s libertarian Michael Cannon, who thinks the compromise is just plain politics: “it helps [him] survive as majority leader by appeasing his left wing. It doesn’t make it any more (or less) likely that Fannie Med will survive.”