I feel like I’m constantly defending myself for saying that the public option – or what’s left of it – just isn’t that valuable. I’m not saying I’d be opposed to it. I just think that it’s not worth much anymore. I even wrote a HuffPo post on that (for which I still get hate mail).
Ezra Klein had a smart post today on the varying options left to the public option. You should read it. But it reminded me of just how much we’ve already given up. So I’m re-posting some of his stuff (the italics is mine):
Separating the public option from Medicare: The Congressional Budget Office projected that pairing the public option with Medicare would save the government more than $100 billion over 10 years. (Not anymore. They killed that in the house which is why it will now save us much less if anything)
Limiting the public option to the exchanges: This happened with somewhat less fanfare, but was similarly significant: It meant the public option would be unavailable to 90 percent of Americans. Over time, it’s possible the exchanges could expand, and if they expand, it’s possible that individuals will be able to choose the public option. (Unlikely. Especially after the Senate guts it. So maybe we’ll get 1-2% of Americans on it)
National or state? A national public option is likely to be a lot stronger than a public option that is run by individual states or triggered into individual states. So there are ongoing discussions about whether the public option will be national or broken up. (The whole point was to get large bargaining power. If it’s small, it’s worthless)
Implementation. Is it available on day one? Or triggered? Can states opt in or opt out? Or do they simply offer the public option, no questions asked? (The Senate is pushing for opt-out or trigger. And they will likely get their way)
Funding: In all the public option proposals I know of, the public option is self-funding (i.e., it works off of premium payments). But some conservative Democrats aren’t content with that, so they’re looking to build a stronger firewall between the public option and federal funds. I don’t really understand how this will work. (Neither do I. Anything less than self-funded is actually handicapping the public option. Awesome)
I think that there are people on the left and right who are misunderstanding the public option in the same way. They think it’s single-payer light, some sort of slippery slope into a powerful government plan. It’s not. At this point, the public option has been bargained away into a small plan that will cover few Americans, will not be able to negotiate well, may be triggered, underfunded, and destined to fail.
I’m just not that into it anymore.