Does Dropping Public Option Mean Health Reform Passes?

A Washington Post/ABC poll suggests it does. The poll reports that President Obama's health care initiative does not enjoy the public's support: 46 percent support "the proposed changes to the health care system being developed by (Congress) and (the Obama administration)" while 48 percent oppose it. But, from the Post's write-up...

Without the public option, 50 percent back the rest of the proposed changes; a still sizable 42 percent are opposed. Independents divide 45-45 on a package without the government-sponsored insurance option, while they are largely negative on the entire set of proposals (40 percent support and 52 percent oppose). Republican opposition also fades 20 points under this scenario.

Meanwhile, 55 percent support the public option, the poll reports. That's right: 55 percent, more than support the overall reform push, back the public option...but support actually increases when you take it out of the equation. Kevin Drum explains that this is probably because supporters of the public option are lukewarm: they like the public option, but it's not a necessary condition for reform.

What's more surprising in all this is that so many people can back the public option and still not support the overall push. The discourse on health reform has become somewhat one-dimensional in that regard; to a sizable chunk of people, it's not all about how Obama navigates the public option/co-op/trigger question. The public option may get treated as a watershed issue--a symbol for whether the plan is too liberal or not liberal enough for America's preferences--but other issues like total spending and Medicare rate adjustments, that figure suggests, play a larger role in Americans' opinions than, perhaps, they get credit for.