Giving up the public option

Health care reform continues to dominate domestic political news. This weekend, the White House made big news by offering to compromise on the “public option” and then backtracking.

For those of you new to the scene, the public option is a government run insurance plan that would compete with private insurance companies. Theoretically it would keep the private sector honest and reduce the cost of health care. Under some proposed plans, it would only be available to the unemployed and small business employees.

Rightwing opponents have been attacking the public option as socialism. They’re partly right, a public option is a form of socialism, a very weak form. Compare what I described in the last paragraph to countries like Canada that cover everybody under a government plan.

Unlike when the Senate caved on end of life care because of the “death panel” fearmongering, a possible compromise on the public plan speaks to rational fears about government spending and control over a large part of our lives and economy.

If Obama and the Democrats in Congress eventually bargain the public plan away, I’ll be disappointed because I think it’s the only alternative to a private insurance industry I don’t trust. But it’s not the end of the world.

We should still see an end to insurance companies denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. We should still see an increase in subsidies for the poor to pay for health care. And we should still see a mandate for nearly all to be covered by insurance.

But we shouldn’t settle! We need to pressure Congress, the President and our friends to support a strong public plan. Like I said, we can’t and shouldn’t trust the private insurance companies to put level of care above profits, and we won’t have to if we get a strong public plan.


  1. Jordan M

    Like I said, we can’t and shouldn’t trust the private insurance companies to put level of care above profits, and we won’t have to if we get a strong public plan.

    Nor should we trust that politicians won’t want to secure continued funding from those insurance companies.

    It seems that it’s all being watered down into an absolute mess that still isn’t very clear to the public. What if you choose to forgot the insurance? What if you are unemployed and would rather not buy the compulsory insurance? How do they track who’s on it and who’s not? When the single payer people talk about a having a card (similar to Medicare) that you just show up to any doctor’s office and present, I’m more for something like that than something that sounds like a continued excess of bureaucracy.

    I’m not sure if it was someone on this blog or another that suggested it, but even doing a limited option covering under 18s would be an excellent start to a single payer experiment. They’re the future of our society and deserve the same benefits as the Olds. We’ll see how that goes and then can extend it to everyone else in the middle.

  2. Ian


    Children under 18 already receive coverage in some states. We know it works. An experiment isn’t necessary.

    We got to be “#1” on this planet by being greedy. Its not shocking that people in this country don’t want to stop being greedy now.

  3. Chris

    Medicare is already a Single Payer experiment.