The Public Option, Redux
Does a government-run health plan have any hope of passing?
Moments after what foes call "Obamacare" passed in the House this spring, Progressive Caucus cochair Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Ca.) vowed to bring back the so-called public option. The notion of a government-run insurance program was the biggest rallying point for liberals in the debate, but never made it into the final bill due to a conservative opposition railing against "socialized medicine." Woolsey has since made good on her promise, introducing a stand-alone public-option bill that has gathered 128 supporters so far, according to the Tribune.
Woolsey and her liberal colleagues admit that there's dim hope of passage, given the current political climate. And things are likely to be even more difficult in the next Congress, with Democrats predicted to lose upwards of 25 seats—and quite possibly the majority.
But I agree with Jonathan Chait, who argues that a public option is likely to become more popular, not less so, as the country continues to struggle with the escalating costs of health care. Supporters of the option say it will help contain costs and reduce the deficit; Woolsey has touted new data from the Congressional Budget Office that suggest it could save the government some $68 billion between 2014 and 2020, partly due to lower administrative costs.