Feature

The opt-out public option buzz

Have Senate Democrats come up with the perfect compromise on health-care reform?

Ladies and gentlemen, we may have a winner, said Alex Koppleman in Salon. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D, N.Y.) and Tom Carper (D, Del.) appear to have come up with a health-care reform compromise that “both liberal and conservative Senate Democrats can agree on”—a government-run public option that individual states can opt out of. This could be “just a temporary fad,” but so far it’s won a “fairly enthusiastic” welcome from Democrats across the spectrum.

The “political value” of the opt-out public option is “pretty obvious,” said Ed Kilgore in The New Republic. It gives “shaky Democrats and maybe a Republican or two” leeway to not filibuster the larger bill. But are the states really ready “to get into the driver’s seat”? Health-care reform is a complex issue, and it’s not clear the opt-out clause will do anything but “transfer much of the yelling and screaming and lobbying” from Washington to state capitals.

It would do much more than that, said Allahpundit in Hot Air. The “opt-out scheme is basically just a prisoner’s dilemma to get recalcitrant red states to acquiesce in a government plan”—once opted-out taxpayers get the bill for this health-care “boondoggle,” they’ll demand “relief” through the “cheap government plan.” I get why liberals like it, but “I don’t get why any fiscal conservative would go for it.”

The bill it would be attached to, by Sen. Max Baucus, is “more fiscally responsible than any other” on the table, said David Brooks in The New York Times. But the main problem with all the “top-down systems” up for discussion is that they “retard innovation” by using the government’s “monopoly power to squeeze costs” and entrench our badly “flawed system.”

That’s why the opt-out compromise would be such a “neat policy experiment,” said Ezra Klein in The Washington Post. “Blue states get the public option at full strength and the red states get to ignore it entirely,” and we see which system works better. Will the public option confirm “the worst fears of conservatives,” or the “hopes of liberal,” or both, or neither? It would be nice to see our policies duke it out for once instead of our congressmen.

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