Developments this week are “far from the last episode of ‘As the Public Option Turns.’” Politico Pulse’s Chris Frates explains:
It’s dead. It’s alive. It’s robust, state-based and opt-out. It’s the public option in all its varied forms. And the flavor this week is the opt-out, a national public insurance plan that would allow states to opt out of participating. The proposal got a huge boost yesterday when word spread that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was inclined to include it in the Senate bill he will take to the floor. And while the news is important because it signals that the public option — left for dead after the August recess — is a contender again, yesterday’s breathless speculation on its bright future is a bit premature.
Jacob Hacker, widely credited as the originator of the public plan idea, comes out against a “trigger” idea on the New Republic’s The Treatment. Hacker says, “In short, we cannot wait for a public plan—and one of the biggest problems with a trigger is that it virtually guarantees we will have to.”
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein outlines scenarios in the House, which appears ready to present three different ‘public plan’ “flavors”:
The House of Representatives is readying itself to release three delicious flavors of health-care reform. One of the bills will have a public option trigger. Another will have a level-playing field proposal. And the third will have the Hardy’s Thickburger of public options: Medicare rates plus 5 percent, national, the whole deal. They’re even forming a commission of independent experts to build a new formula that addresses the concerns of rural and Pacific Coast members, both of whom feel that Medicare underpays their hospitals.
It doesn’t matter to James Capretta which version the House goes with. He blasts House Dems’ strategy to pass a tweaked bill, frustrated that nothing has been presented for public viewing:
If House leaders decide to go public with CBO’s apparent bottom line, CBO really should be obligated to go public with the entire analysis to ensure no misunderstanding. Otherwise CBO’s findings can be distorted. House Democrats are trying to build momentum again toward passage by creating the impression they have found a painless way to turn their budget-busting bill from July into one that actually cuts the deficit. It’s CBO’s job to make sure no one gets away with this kind of phony free-lunch argument. If in fact a new version of the House bill reduces the federal budget deficit over two decades, someone is paying. Who? Here’s betting that’s it’s the American middle class. And as soon as that becomes known, the new updated House bill is likely to become just as unpopular as the now dead and buried old one.
Is some of the opposition to Dems’ plans floundering? Politico’s Ben Smith says insurers are failing in their efforts to get positive publicity for new reports on the cost of health overhaul bills: “What might have in another era been a clean shot — for AHIP, a leak to the Washington Post; today, to another paper; instead seems to be sending these documents as orphans into a media universe that views them, appropriately, as arguments for one side, rather than revelatory statements of fact, and where left-leaning wonks are primed to tear them apart.”
Insure Blog’s Bob Vineyard calls President Obama “a finger wagging President” while mulling over the health overhaul debate and says, “The politicians promise to make health care and health insurance more affordable. Problem is, the way they are going about it won’t accomplish either. So now both sides, politicians and health insurance companies, are pointing fingers saying the other side lied. If either side really knows the truth, they aren’t telling it.”
Think Progress’ Matthew Yglesias reviews comments from Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., (highlighed by the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen) that some people like the idea of a public plan option because they think it would mean “free health care.” Yglesias concludes: “I think maybe she doesn’t understand what’s being proposed and thinks that liberals are proposing to create an additional spending commitment. In reality, adding a public option would make the Finance bill cheaper and not involve any additional taxpayer subsidies.”
Reason’s Ronald Bailey takes the former point to the extreme — saying “no one knows anything in health care.” His solution? “Competition in markets tends to lower prices and improve quality over time. It can do so in health care markets as well.”