Monday, October 26, 2009

Public Option Opt-out

So the public option lives on. Good for Reid: he's sticking to his guns. Unfortunately (for the bill, and for us if it gets signed into law), this Frankenstein monster he's crafting contains the worst elements of its forebears, and risks bringing out the villagers with pitchforks once the full details and implications become widely known.

The latest idea is to have a public option, but allow states to opt out. While the instinct to federalism is admirable, it's hard to imagine a worse compromise. It undermines the stated purpose of a common national health care plan, which is to force all insurers to compete with a "lowest common denominator" plan. (Of course, this won't work - if payments remain on their current trajectory, it will merely shift costs from health care consumers to taxpayers; if payments are cut, it will cause a shortage of health care. But that's the stated purpose.) This compromise means that insurers will be able to lobby their states of business to keep them free of this new competitor.

Imagine a bill establishing the U.S. Postal Service, but allowing states to opt out. Reid's compromise is just slightly less ridiculous.

Obviously, this was done to calm nervous Democratic senators from conservative states, who can now tell their constituents: Look, if you don't like it, just opt out of it. Which just shows that the Democrats have no philosophy, no unifying ideals that they aren't willing to compromise, as long as they get their beloved public option somewhere.

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