The Importance of a Public Option

To try to clear up something about yesterday’s post on a Swiss model of health care reform I don’t, personally, consider something like that adequate. I don’t think it’s the appropriate role of progressives in the United States to be pushing for subsidies and mandates for insurance companies in exchange for the right to regulate the companies more tightly. That might be an improvement over the status quo, or not, depending on how it played out over subsequent years’ worth of legislative battles. I think it’s important to fight for a public option which, as Igor Volsky notes, is a wildly popular idea as well as sound policy. As Howard Dean says, this is key to real health care reform:

That said, one scenario I can easily imagine is one in which insurance companies get spooked by the idea that this is going to pass and then deliver votes of “moderate” Democrats and various Republicans in favor of a Swiss-style (or perhaps Massachusetts-style is a better way to put it) system. In that case, I think you could hardly blame the White House for deciding to say “yes” to the opportunity to deliver universal health care. Substantively, that would wind up kicking the can on most of the important issues, but you can see the politics playing out that way. But in either case, I think the main point is that it’s maintaining the possibility of doing health reform through the budget reconciliation process and of including a robust public option that’s bringing people to the table. In other words, it’s essential to keep pushing for this idea.