Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Public Option: Obama's Idea

If it were only NBC's Deputy Political Director Mark Murray, it wouldn't matter. But it's the consensus view of what Digby routinely refers to as The Village, so it does.

When then-candidate Barack Obama first unveiled his health-care plan, on May 29, 2007, his 3,600-word speech didn't contain the words "public option" in it. There wasn't a single mention of it (although an accompanying fact sheet did refer to a "new public plan" that would be open to individuals without access to other coverage).

The words "public option" or "public plan" also didn't appear in Obama's convention speech in Denver, nor in his victory address at Grant Park in Chicago.

Apparently, then, it's all the fault of those crybaby liberals, trying to strangle the Obama presidency in its crib.

Except, of course, that this public thing was the idea of Senator Barack Obama.

On May 29, 2007 The New York Times described the health care proposals Senator Obama laid out that day at the University of Iowa:

Mr. Obama would create a public plan for individuals who cannot obtain group coverage through their employers or the existing government programs, like Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Children would be required to have health insurance. Subsidies would be available for those who need help with the cost of coverage.

He would also create a National Health Insurance Exchange, a regulated marketplace of competing private health plans intended to give individuals other, more affordable options for coverage. The public plan would compete in that Insurance Exchange, advisers said.

Once Senator Obama was nominated, his campaign website included:

(2) NEW AFFORDABLE, ACCESSIBLE HEALTH INSURANCE OPTIONS. The Obama-Biden plan will create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals purchase new affordable health care options if they are uninsured or want new health insurance. Through the Exchange, any American will have the opportunity to enroll in the new public plan or an approved private plan, and income-based sliding scale tax credits will be provided for people and families who need it.

And from the platform adopted at the Democratic convention:

Covering All Americans and Providing Real Choices
of Affordable Health Insurance Options. Families and individuals should have the option of keeping the coverage they have or choosing from a wide array of health insurance plans, including many private health insurance options and a public

Of course, the platform is the party's platform, not the nominee's platform. However, it a policy statement the candidate chooses to run on and if the presumptive nominee has a difficulty with any particular plank, it gets excised.

While it was politically safer to emphasize a health insurance exchange, Barack Obama suggested and supported a public option as part of that exchange. As did, significantly, Montana's Senator Max Baucus, perhaps the primary obstacle to a government plan. Whatever its fate, it was a good idea, and a compromise from the concept of single payer. It little serves either President Obama or the interests of an informed citizenry for the mainstream media to pretend that the plan is a silly idea of the leftist fringe of Obama's own party.

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