Assigned Reading: Public Option Gets New Life in Senate
(FROM: The Wall Street Journal)
And we all knew it would, regardless of the amount of message jockeying performed by the president and his flunkies in the White House.
The fact that the public option is gaining new attention says a lot about the state of debate on Capitol Hill, where Democrats feel a breeze at their backs, despite the slow pace of action since Labor Day and continued attacks from the political right.
Advocates contend a public plan would encourage lower premiums and better terms for consumers in many parts of the country that are dominated by a handful of major insurers. “It gives some real competition, when many times there isn’t,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.).
The Senate Finance Committee turned away from the public plan in favor of creating a network of nonprofit cooperatives. Just three weeks ago, the panel delivered a bipartisan rejection of two public-plan alternatives, in what looked like a critical defeat for the idea.
But a funny thing happened: It wouldn’t die. Several factors explain why compromise versions of a public plan are gaining traction. For one, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded the cooperatives proposed by the Finance Committee “seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country.”
Also, private health insurers stepped up attacks on the Finance Committee bill, fearing it would saddle them with too many unprofitable customers. The committee had embraced cooperatives in part as a nod to insurers’ concerns about a public plan, but the attacks led Democratic senators to look less favorably on the industry.
In August, when critics swamped town halls, the public plan was a symbol of excess. But now issues such as the proposed mandate that nearly all Americans buy insurance — which would be enforced by financial penalties — are bigger hot potatoes.
Sen. Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, suggested the public plan may be losing its edge as an ideological litmus test. He predicted a “middle ground” will likely be found, perhaps by allowing states to opt in — or out — of a national plan. “That probably is a sensible thing to do,” he said, adding that allowing states to experiment could provide a “test run…rather than just taking a blind leap into the unknown.”
If you believe, even for a second, that the federal government is going to allow the states to opt out of anything, I’ve got some prime oceanfront property in Iowa to sell you. This isn’t about health care, remember? This is about expanding federal control. If there is some sort of opt-out option, there will be some sort of strings attached preventing the states from doing so, whether it be the withholding of federal unemployment benefits or some other related effort. You can take that to the bank.