Requiem For A Dream
White House spinners tried to keep the home fires burning on the public option today, but it's quite clear they're putting a stake in it. They're letting Olympia Snowe, who supports a trigger, where a public option would only be authorized if the insurance industry failed to meet certain benchmarks, basically write the bill. And telegraphing desperation is not exactly the way to hold firm to principle, even if Obama "favors" a competition mechanism for private industry.
“It’s so important to get a deal,” a White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to be candid about strategy. “He will do almost anything it takes to get one.”
That's a recipe for success.
The only specifics in the Robert Pear article include the White House following that same tactic of cutting out whatever the small minority of screamers have determined to be outrageous, like the end-of-life care provisions (death panels!), or the health disparity data provisions (taking our personal information!), as if that will somehow placate people who don't want government, let alone reform. And then, since he's telegraphed weakness, there's even down to this:
If Mr. Obama does not gain traction by making these concessions, his allies on Capitol Hill said, they may have to consider bigger changes. For example, they said, rather than requiring all Americans to carry health insurance, Congress might start by requiring coverage of children, or families with children.
Giving up on universal health care? Great, he's bargaining back to John Kerry's 2004 platform. Fantastic.
Quietly, Progressive Caucus members are being told that the public option is a dead letter. But it sounds to me like the whole thing will wither away as well. Olympia Snowe is going to offer a bill with a few insurance reforms, a smaller price tag that would cut either coverage subsidies or Medicaid expansion, and... that's it. Insurance companies, if there's an individual market, would get a bailout, essentially, a license to print money by making refusal to buy their product a crime. Jerry Nadler put it best:
"Without a public option, this bill will do a lot of nice things but only by throwing a couple hundred billion dollars at insurance companies," says Nadler, adding that a public option is necessary to hold down the cost of health insurance. "What is the point of passing a bill that mandates people to buy insurance that is going to be unaffordable?" he says [...]
What of the argument that the House Dems should not permit the perfect to be the enemy of the good? Isn't half a loaf better than none? "I am convinced," Nadler remarks, "that you can't take a loaf without the public option because that's not sustainable, with the costs going up. If we did this, what will we accomplish in the end?"
This is going to start a major split in the party. Just what we need to put things back together!