Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Death of the Public Option

I think I've made fairly clear in my somewhat infrequent posts on healthcare reform, that I don't really care that much about the "public option". It was always my opinion that the forces are just so strongly aligned against Single Payer, that nothing that smacked of it was ever going to make through the sausage factory. If liberals were excited about any provision that they could point to as a possible starting point down the path to Single Payer, then that is exactly the provision people like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson were going to zero in on.

That said, it's still a sad day to see the (in my opinion) much better Medicare Buy-In compromise die so ignominiously and quickly... apparently under pressure from the White House (obviously not going to thrill many progressives). Ezra has the reasoning, but I can't say I find it persuasive:
The calculation, in the end, was pretty simple. The White House wants the Senate done with health-care legislation by Christmas. The argument is that big bills rarely fail in a dramatic vote. They bleed to death slowly, wasting away amid a procession of delays and procedural setbacks. The longer a health-care reform bill takes, the less likely it is to pass.

Worse, the longer health-care reform takes, the longer it is until Democrats can shift the spotlight back to jobs and the economy. The Obama administration wants to use the State of the Union as a turning point. Health-care reform would be the shining first year accomplishment, allowing the president to begin the election-year pivot to jobs and the economy and the deficit. But if health-care reform is to pass by early next year, it will have to clear the Senate before the end of this year.

I can't say I normally follow the legislative process closely enough to know how true the first part is, but there seems to be a lot riding on it. While having the bill done before the State of the Union makes sense, it can't be more important than having the best bill possible, can it? Unlike many liberals, I don't think the budget reconciliation is the best way to go in terms of politics (maybe policy), but to take it off the table simply because it will take too long? Ugh. I still don't understand why they didn't even try to make it into a credible threat.

So while whatever bill gets signed will be an enormous step forward, it still kind of sucks.