Well, not really. This is one of those revelations that is newsworthy without being very new. Polling on the public option has long revealed that Americans loved the idea of a government-run insurance program -- until they hear any possible counter-argument. That's because polls aren't good barometers of popular support. They're good evidence that Americans feel perfectly comfortable taking hard stands on ideas they don't totally get.
Back in September the Washington Post released a poll that taught lawmakers this: (1) A majority (55 percent) support a government-sponsored health care plan. (2) A minority (46 percent) support health care reform overall. (3) A plurality (50 percent) support health care reform overall if you take out the public option. Killing the most popular part of health care reform makes health care reform more popular? I mean ... you figure that one out for yourself.
The public option is pretty simple. It's a government-sponsored (ie,
public) health care plan to compete with regulated private insurance
plans (so it's an option) with the long-term goal of pressuring
insurance prices down. Why does two-thirds of the country not know
this? I guess we could blame the press for turning the health care
debate into a harlequin space opera of cross-partisan hysteria. But
Americans aren't little baby birds who need Wolf Blitzer or Glenn Beck
to regularly mouth-feed us with basic information on our nesting
couches because we can't find it ourselves. Simply Google (or Bing!) "What is the public option"
and you get some really respectable links that offer both surface-level
definitions and in-depth analysis and opinion. One of the great things
about the information revolution is that it's really easy to find
answers to questions of definition. So, yeah I blame the press for
acting too much like a live-action Bartlett's and less like a simple
glossary, but a little bit of research on the public's part shouldn't
be purely optional.