This article originally appeared on The Media Consortium.
A plan to reform healthcare that includes a robust public option would actually cut the deficit, according to preliminary estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). For the purposes of this analysis, a robust public option was defined as one that reimburses doctors at Medicare rates plus five percent. The latest CBO estimate is critical for Democrats because President Barack Obama said he wouldn’t sign a healthcare bill that adds to the deficit. (There’s a double standard at work. Health care has to pay for itself or save money. But as Jo Comerford notes for Democracy Now!, the president has no compunction about bloating the budget with defense spending.)
As healthcare reform moves into the closed-door, intra-party negotiation phase, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is emerging as a champion of a public option. Pelosi has always said that she can’t pass a bill without some kind of public plan, though she has wavered about how tough that plan should be on payouts to providers. But according to Brian Beutler of TPMDC, yesterday’s favorable CBO report seems to have settled all that, and Pelosi’s decided to go all in for a public option.
And why not? A clear majority of Americans now favor a public option, as John Byrne reports in Raw Story. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published on Tuesday, 57 percent of respondents favor a public health insurance option to compete with private insurers. That’s an increase of five percentage points in two months.
Two bills made it out of committee in the Senate, one with a public option (the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee’s effort) and one without (the Senate Finance bill). So proponents of the public option are putting pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to include one in the final bill. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is running ads in Reid’s district that ask if he’s strong enough to back a public option. Reid might be more susceptible than usual to progressive pressure because he’s up for re-election and facing dismal poll numbers, according to Alex Koppelman at Salon.