The president supports the public option for healthcare. The House of Representatives will pass a bill that includes the public option. A majority of senators supports the public option. The president should fight for this, stand firm for this, and if he does, in the end, I believe he wins. Let me add, I talked to the Senate majority leader at some length shortly before the recess, and without divulging secrets of state, this battle has only begun.
The fact is, the public option would create a check-and-balance to private insurers, which would keep premiums for consumers lower because consumers would have the public option if private insurers raise prices.
Without a public option, the healthcare bill will create a windfall for insurance companies by increasing the number of people covered, driving business to private insurers, without the check-and-balance of a public alternative.
The result of false reform without a public option is clear: Insurers will keep raising premiums, as they always have, as they are doing today, as they always will without competition from a Medicare-like public plan.
The co-op alternative is not viable. It has been tried in a limited number of states with very mixed results. Nor is it coincidence that some of the leading proponents of the co-ops are among the largest recipients of campaign money from the affected industry.
I also predict there will soon be revelations about exactly who is financing and promoting some of the falsehoods now polluting the debate, and if there are, these revelations will have significant impact on the politics.
The president has not handled this well. He has given mixed signals, stayed far too much above the fray, remained far too removed from the congressional process, and allowed the debate to be defined by extremes and distorted by outright falsehoods. This has created a view among healthcare opponents that he can be "rolled" and uncertainty among his friends about what he wants, and what he will fight for.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) needs to make a decision. If he persists in falsely suggesting there is anything like a "death panel" he will not be a legitimate negotiating partner and there will be, and should be, an open revolt against him having any veto of this bill, by many Democrats on the Hill.
Grassley knows well that under any bill, House or Senate, nobody is going to kill Grandma. He must demonstrate far greater good faith. If he does not, the president needs to make a decision about the standards he sets for good-faith negotiations, and whether we should continue what are essentially secret negotiations among a small group of small-state senators.
The pundits who write off the public option are wrong. The decision can be made as late as Christmas Eve and there is plenty of time for the truth to triumph over the falsehoods. The president favors the public option. The House will pass the public option. A majority of the Senate favors a public option. And a healthcare bill, to bring true reform, must include the public option.
Reprinted with author permission from TheHill