I’ve had some things to say this week about the irrationality of the idea that health reform isn’t worth passing unless it includes a public option. That said, it’s worth being clear about the fact that the folks on the other side—Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, Joe Lieberman, Mike Ross, etc.—who appear to be saying that they’ll support reform only if it doesn’t include a public option are being equally irrational for all the same reasons. If you accept the idea that there’s a moral imperative to provide security to the insured, health care to the uninsured, and a fighting chance of bending the long-term cost curve, then the idea that you would hold all those objectives hostage to the fact that insurance companies want to maximize the degree to which the new legislation benefits them is, frankly, obscene.
It’s worth noting, after all, that even the versions of health reform in congress that do include a public option would be better for the insurance industry than no bill at all. It seems to me you ought to be able to look an insurer executive or lobbyist in the eye and tell him, “I’m casting a vote that will help you get even richer” even while voting “yes” on the House version. To hold out for Baucuscare or nothing requires a sort of disturbed mindset that I’ve puzzled over before. And it’s striking that the people holding this position not only haven’t given any sort of actual reason for their view, but they’ve barely been asked to give a reason. Instead the press has overwhelmingly let them get away with going meta and saying they think a public option should be dropped because it “doesn’t have the votes.” Alternatively, they’re allowed to just lie and say they oppose a public option because it will (how? through magic?) seize control of the entire market. They’re never put on the spot about the contradiction between public option opposition and a desire to make the package cheaper, and they’re certainly never put on the spot about why on earth this one thing is so overwhelmingly important that they would sink the whole package if they don’t get their way.