Is It Time for the Public Option to Go?

About the Medicare buy-in aspect of the Senate’s public option compromise Ben Nelson said on Face the Nation today, “I’m concerned that it’s the forerunner of single payer, the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option.”

And on the same program Joe Lieberman said, “You’ve got to take out the Medicare buy-in. You’ve got to forget about the public option.” He thinks the bill is fine with its low income subsidies and doesn’t need a public option. He won’t vote for a bill with one.

I disagree with Nelson: the Medicare buy-in will not lead to a single-payer plan. To think it will is a misread of what it is. And I think there is an important and sound role for a public plan (I favor a strong triggered option). But I do not believe we’ll get one that can play that role. Every version has led to compromise upon compromise, resulting in a largely symbolic legislative nuance. It seems that no public option we’re likely to get is going to amount to much. Despite that, it remains an important talking point because liberals are requiring it and centrists can’t accept it.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I think it is time for the public option to go. Ezra Klein is right. Trade it away and move on. Since a meaningful one isn’t achievable anyway, what is left to cling to?

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