Brighten their holiday. Enrich their everyday.Give The Atlantic

More On The Future of the Public Option

by Conor Clarke

I got a bunch of emails about my last two posts on the public option, some of which were sharp and helpful, and some of which were just a teeny bit too loaded with insults for me to make much sense of one way or another. But I liked this one:

I'm kind of confused as to why you don't understand why House Democrats are drawing the line in the sand with regards to the Public Option. It's not the Public Option that they (and I) are attached to. Most of the House Dems who have pledged to vote "no" unless a healthcare bill contains a public option are single-payer advocates. Same with the people who are angry about it not being seen as essential. The Public Option IS the compromise. A pretty enormous compromise at that. [...]

That makes sense. But it seems to me that there are three possible arguments here, and I'm kind of confused which one is intended. It could be: (1) The public option still has the important and desirable elements of a single-payer system; (2) The public option is a crappy compromise, but we're hoping it might somehow blossom into a single-payer system in the future; or (3) The public option was a compromise, and we are sick sick sick of compromising.

So which is it? I still think (1) is false. The public option is not the most important element of the proposed reforms. (And I notice Ezra Klein agrees.) Medicaid expansion, new private insurance requirements and consumer subsidies will do more. I understand the sinister appeal of (2), but I went to Catholic school and naturally cannot approve of such disingenuousness. And while sympathize with (3), I really do fear that the baby will drown in its bathwater if the public option becomes non-negotiable.