Pundits Sanguine on Public Option Compromise

A Senate compromise may have set aside the public option, but liberals are warming to the alternative

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When news broke late Tuesday night that the Senate tentatively "sidelined" the public option to reach a compromise, reaction from liberals was surprisingly subdued. Why? Because there's a new alternative in town many public option advocates seem to like. The Senate compromise could include an expansion of Medicare to Americans 55 or older, an exchange that would allow the government to negotiate prices with private insurance companies, and a "trigger" that would create a government-run plan if the exchange doesn't provide enough Americans with affordable health care. If the compromise between liberal and moderate Democrats holds, the Senate will be one, major step closer to achieving health care reform. But commentators say there may be a ways to go before Democrats can claim victory.

  • Not as Good as the Public Option, But Pretty Good The Washington Post's Ezra Klein likes what he sees so far, but says "the details will be important here." He has some questions:
What are the conditions for the non-profit plans? How many plans do there need to be? What does the regulation look like? When does the Medicare buy-in start? But assuming those pieces don't come in much worse than expected, the combination of national non-profits and a Medicare buy-in seems like a pretty good deal.
  • A Nice Idea, But No Substitute For a Public Option The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn says the plan is smart, but doesn't go far enough. "I think, if it's done right--then a 56-year-old selecting that option is going to see, right away, what a good deal it is. That's going to have precisely the effect that public option proponents always wanted, both on popular perceptions of public versus private insurance and, in the aggregate, on the market for insurance."
  • Can the Government Control Costs This Way? At The Atlantic, Marc Ambinder says it's important to know if the compromise will have the same, projected cost-cutting effect as the CBO thinks the public option would. "Will the federal agency that's going to oversee the variant of the congressional/federal employee plan have the ability to make changes that bend the cost curve?" he asks.
  • What Deal? At The National Review, Kathryn Jean Lopez reports that a "senior Senate source" says very little has actually been worked out. "Most Senators don't know the details of this plan; nobody knows how much it will cost or save; and nobody knows if it will actually get the job done."
  • No Compromise Jon Walker of FireDogLake says it's increasingly obvious that Democrats will have to use the nuclear option if they want to get any real reform passed in Congress. "The way it looks now, if this new, new 'grand compromise' even resembles the current rumors, it will be a great big nothing. Everyday, it gets more and more clear that the only way to pass real health care reform is with reconciliation or the nuclear option. There simply are not 60 senators who would rather help regular Americans instead of bailing out the health insurance industry."
  • Forget the Public Option. This is About Abortion At Hot Air, Allahpundit says it's the anti-abortion amendments of Senator Ben Nelson and Representative Bart Stupak that are going to divide Democrats, not the compromise on the public option. "Unless they have a Santa bag full of legislative bribes, I don't know how Pelosi and Reid are going to thread this needle between pro-lifers and -choicers."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.