COMMENTS: No More Public Option--but Continued Public Role

"A breakthrough," announced CBS' Nancy Cordes, "that might allow them to scrap the public option." Considering how much fuss and bother has been expended--pro and con--over the public option in the healthcare reform debate, at first blush it seems that the networks were burying the lead by not making the latest compromise formula from Senate Democrats their Story of the Day.

All three Congressional correspondents did cover it and the details reveal that the new plan is not quite that radical a departure. It does not get rid of the federal role; it just replaces the public option role--a government-run insurance plan--with a public brokerage role: "The coverage would be provided by private insurers but premiums and benefits would be negotiated by the federal government's Office of Personnel Management," as ABC's Jonathan Karl put it. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell called it "the same kind of insurance benefits that Congress now gets…A government agency would organize it but not pay for it."

In addition the compromise expands federal Medicare coverage to uninsured patients between the age of 55 and 64 who work for very small business or who are self-employed. ABC's George Stephanopoulos noted that a slogan of universal healthcare advocates for the last 20 years had been Medicare For All. "They are not going to get that but they are going to make a move in that direction." Stephanopoulos predicted that passage for this latest compromise would hinge on two factors. Does it cost the federal government little enough to satisfy centrists? Is it affordable enough and universal enough to satisfy progressives?


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