With the passing of Obamacare, many considered it the end of the public option. However, the public option just refuses to stay dead. On Tuesday, House Democrats introduced the “Public Option Deficit Reduction Act” to the upset of Republicans in the house. The reason for the anguish, however, was due to the GOP’s continuing drumming of fiscal responsibility, the bill has been structured as a deficit reduction measure of the very sort the GOP have demanded.
What they have done is to effectively open up Medicare, or an insurance system based on Medicare, to anyone in the nation. They used numbers generated by the Congressional Budget Office which demonstrated that such a measure would cut almost 20% of the projected national deficit. The way it would work is this: It would be a new health insurance system, using the Medicare payment and structure, but would be an opt-in for any person or company on the healthcare exchanges. This would create a low-cost competition to keep the big insurance companies costs in line, by using the private market and the way capitalism works.
The House Democrats do not expect this measure to pass with the GOP in firm control. However by pushing this, they now can put the Republicans into a very bad position. Now the GOP will be on the record as against cost control, on fighting for increasing the deficit, right before the very contentious 2014 midterm election. Just imagine the advertising, they can paint the Republican opposition as being against healthcare, against the private market, and being for increasing the deficit, all in the same stroke.
Of course the House Republicans could surprise everyone, and let the measure pass, in the name of addressing the deficit. It would cost them nothing in the midterm elections, and would in fact make them more competitive against the growing opposition already being prepared to run against them. This of course would be the smart move, politically. It would also be the wise move, and would show that the Republican party is not a bunch of lobbyist supported fat cats, and understand more than just their golf handicap.
But that is highly unlikely.
Instead, it is likely the bill will never make it to the floor for a vote. As a precaution, Speaker of the House John Boehner will use parliamentary procedure to lock it up, and prevent it from ever seeing the light of day. This will reduce the damage in the next election, but not eliminate it. Also, it may be inserted into a larger spending bill, where the House would find itself forced to vote on it. But the important thing is that the public option is not dead, and continues to make the circles around the District of Columbia. So long as people are willing to keep fighting for the people, hope that the public option will make it remains.
Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.
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