The “public option” that’s been so vigorously debated at the moment is actually a pretty wimpy public objection. You could imagine a much more robust one that would do more to squeeze providers and cut down costs. But of course neither providers nor health insurance companies want that. And insurers have a lot of money, and providers—most notably doctors—have both money and political credibility. So instead most attention is focused on a somewhat wimpy public option and even that’s having a hard time gaining enough support in the Senate to pass. But Brian Beutler points out that going the reconciliation route might force a more left-wing version of the public option:
“A very robust public option that scores significant savings would presumably be easy to justify doing through reconciliation,” says a Senate Democratic aide. “But it is still being studied whether other, more moderate versions of a public option could pass parliamentary muster.”
According to Martin Paone, a legislative expert who’s helping Democrats map out legislative strategy, a more robust public option–one that sets low prices, and provides cheap, subsidized insurance to low- and middle-class consumers–would have an easier time surviving the procedural demands of the so-called reconciliation process. However, he cautions that the cost of subsidies “will have to be offset and if [the health care plan] loses money beyond 2014…it will have to be sunsetted.”
Of course the question then becomes of whether you could get 50 votes for that. A robust public option saves money so, naturally, deficit-averse “centrist” Democrats don’t like the idea. And, naturally, the press never seems to point that out.