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Debating the Public Health Care Option

While the White House is trying to figure out how to quell a Democratic intraparty struggle on health-care reform, our Readers Who Comment are busy calling each other names and arguing about Post columnist Steven Pearlstein's suggestion that President Obama give up on the public option.

Pearlstein writes that "By insisting on a government-run plan, liberals have played right into the hands of Republicans who aim to defeat any reform by mischaracterizing it as a government takeover."

The arguments on both sides of this issue are now well known, and repeated with passion by our readers. They argue that the only way to control insurance company profits is for the government to offer a competitive alternative, or they argue that the government has no business doing such things. Getting lost in all this noise is the fact that the present system leaves far too many people without decent health care while politicians work on scoring political points.

We'll start with keetz44, who wrote, "Mr. Pearlstein, we will not give up the public option. Why don't you give up bashing it."

But paul6554 said, "Thanks Steven as always for educating the public with rational arguments, rather than scaring them with irrational exaggerations."

TT42, despairing, said, "You couldn't be more wrong! Without the public option, this whole thing is worse than nothing: we won't have another chance to fix this mess for another 25 years. Giving up on the public option is letting the Republicans win! It's giving in to the health insurance companies and the drug makers. Better nothing at all than that!"

Realist20, noting those and other similar comments, wrote, "The loony left wing will go nuts when they read this, but the Public Option is dead, but it is always the clueless that figure it out last."

georgiarat said, "I wish people would stop calling this a public option. It is not a public option, it is a GOVERNMENT Option! Was it a public bailout of the banks and insurance companies? Was it a public option takeover of GM and Chrysler? No they were GOVERNMENT bailouts and Government takeovers."

Dannoday made a point that often gets lost in the noise in writing, "Health care reform is not about redistributing wealth. It's about redistributing compassion."

Matthew_DC suggested that "Perhaps a suitable compromise would be that for an individual earning over $250,000, he/she gets to enter the doctor's office and hospital through a separate door with a red carpet and a separate waiting area for each class of patient. How about that? Will that preserve the unique, world-class superiority of American healthcare?..."

jhozae said, "I'm still waiting for anyone who's against the public option to enumerate all the reasons the private option is so gosh darn wonderful!"

seraphina wants even more and wrote, "Mr Pearlstein is right - the public option should be buried. All Americans of good faith should be pushing for a single payer plan... If you want to control costs, get rid of an unnecessary bureaucracy who can kill grandma...THEN WE HAVE TO GET RID OF FOR-PROFIT HEALTH CARE INSURANCE. The insurance companies don't do any of that..."

Matthew_DC said, "...Your recommendation is like telling civil rights activists "it's time to give up on desegregation" because it doesn't have the votes. Some battles are not won in a day... Let the public option come up for vote last so liberal ire can be properly directed at the DEMs who are currently in the wrong party."

charleshohner wrote, "I am a health ins broker. All of the company's that will participate in the Exchange will know what all of the other company's are charging. All of them will price their product within 10% of each other as in many markets today. There will be no competition... They will all price their products so that there is no competition. This is why the Public Option is VITAL to make competion actually happen."

mcgannpat asked, "...How is it that Mr. Pearlstein chooses to ignore the fact the public option creates competition; something singularly lacking in the health insurance system now, and the one thing that will most motivate for profit insurance companies to reduce overhead costs...[?]"

jlkreutzer wrote, "We need either a public option or a very good nonprofit co-op plan that gets seed money from the feds. Private insurance only is a fiasco and it is tanking our economy as well as imposing great hardship on most Americans."

mmcgowan1 said, "If the free market had worked for health care, there would never had been the need for Medicare in the first place. But insurance companies did not find the old and frail to be a profitable segment... We have had a broken health care system for too long. We spend twice as much as other developed countries and yet our people are sicker and have shorter life expectancies. The time to make a change is now."

nicekid wrote, "There will be no meaningful health care reform. This whole ridiculous performance is just kabuki--something to keep us peasants distracted while the insurance and drug companies reach ever deeper into our pockets."

We'll close with a frustrated nychap44, who said, "You all are playing political games... Every single Republican in the house and senate could vote against [the Democrats'] health care reform bill and it would not make any differnce whatsoever to their ability to get it put into law. Why all the theatrics? I suppose they want to make it look hard. It is not. Just do it and be done with it. I am sick of watching this BS."

All comments on Pearlstein's column are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  August 19, 2009; 6:07 AM ET
 | Tags: Health-Care Reform, Public Option  
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Next: Pulling the Plug on "Public Option"


Let congress can fix the problems with Medicare and Medicaid, then I say let them have a go at a public option. Medicare and Medicaid are spending vastly larger sums than originally projected, are underfunded and eating up a larger chunk of federal and state budgets by the day. And you have faith the congress is capable of solving this problem? Show me the money!

Posted by: Reasonable2 | August 20, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

We need a public option to keep the insurance companies in line. The Republicans don't want anything but to make sure no plan is passed. They have been lying and misleading the American public for months now. There is a related post at

Posted by: carlyt | August 20, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I want the public option.

Posted by: flbntz | August 20, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

I really think if the dems do push this through, it will NOT fail. Once it is in place and the "public" has an OPPORTUNITY to CHOOSE a more affordable health plan with better coverage they will. In turn it will finally create some competition in the health care industry. I am extremely confused as to why the government giving the PUBLIC an OPTION to obtain affordable health care is such a problem for so many people. It’s not like they have to purchase it. They can stay right where they are if they are in fact happy with their rates and coverage. This plan isn’t going to break us! Health care the way it stands will, if not kill us because it’s out of control and every one does not have the opportunity to utilize it! If it is passed, I will be one of the first in line to sign up so that I can FINALLY have health insurance for me and my family.

Posted by: synergyabc | August 19, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse


More than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 76% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (85% of democrats, 71% of independents, and 60% of republicans). Basically everyone.


The healthcare reform bills released by the first two committees of the House Of Representatives are excellent bills as I understand them. They are bills with a strong, robust, government-run public option, and an intelligent, reasonable initial funding plan to cover almost all of the American people. They are carefully written, and thoughtfully constructed, informed, prudent and wise. These bills will save trillions of dollars, and millions of your lives. They are also now supported by the AMA.

These are the type of bills that all Americans can feel good about. And these are the type of bills that have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of healthcare for all Americans. Rich, middle class and poor a like. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and all other party affiliations. These bills have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life of every American.

The house healthcare bills released by the first two committees should be viewed as the minimum GOLD STANDARD by which all other proposed healthcare legislation should be judged. All supporters of true high quality healthcare reform should now place all your support behind these healthcare reform bills released by the first two committees of the United States House Of Representatives, as the minimum Gold standard for healthcare reform in America.

You should all now support the first two committees bills with all your might, and all of your unrelenting tenacity. These first two House committees healthcare bills are VERY, VERY GOOD! bills for all of the American people. Fight tooth, and nail for every bit of these bills if you have too. Be aggressive, creative, and relentless for these bills.

From this time forward, go BIGGER and DEEPER with the American people every day until passage of healthcare reform with a robust, government-run public option.

FIGHT!! like your life and the lives of your loved ones depends on it. BECAUSE IT DOES!


Senator Bernie Sanders on healthcare (

God Bless You

Jack Smith — Working Class

Posted by: JackSmith1 | August 19, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

The Spendocrats are finally getting an inkling that they only have until the 2010 elections to inflict anymore damage on our Country. The anger is not just about the health care, it is the pork in the ill conceived bill that none of them bothered to read, the massive debt, the printing and shifting of money without disclosure, the massive wave of inflation that is coming our way. As more of the pork and lack of stimulus becomes apparent there is going to be more anger.

These idiots know that after 2010 they will not longer have the numbers in the House and the Senate. They will not have the White House in 2012.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | August 19, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"Bottom line, Obama is a loser."

You think so?
The public is about dead even on the subject of a public option, within the margin of error. 10% are sitting on the fence and don't know either way. Those 10% will fold into Pro-Reform once it's passed. Everyone likes a winner, and the news cycle is already spitting out the racuous Town Halls as...what else? Yesterday's News.

Have you read the News today? The Democrats have had enough and are going to push a health care bill through without the Republicans.

Now - truth be told- the Dems were planning to ram health care through all along, but it was important to give the appearance of giving the Republicans a chance to come to the table. (More amicable, et cet.) But now that the Republicans have proclaimed their refusal to revise and extend health care to all and sundry they can effectively be ignored.

Translated: "Nice astroturf, but our guy won."

Posted by: mrncheryl | August 19, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Liberals and Socialists and Negroes!
Oh, my!

Posted by: coloradodog | August 19, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"Co-ops," "public option," “single payer,” and whatever else they choose to call it are just means to impose government-controlled or socialized medicine, another step towards socialism/Marxism -- and all the poverty, corruption, servitude, and despair that Marxism entails

Any support for Obamacare demonstrates that Soviet defector Yuri Bezmenov was right when warned us that our enemies were working hard at brainwashing us (dumbing us down) and would succeed if we did not defend our principles:

The dumbed down are obviously unable to understand that Obamacare will further contribute to “the American descent into Marxism,” which “is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple…”

Fortunately, as we can see in the town halls, most Americans have not been dumbed down and they will do whatever necessary to defend themselves, their children and grandchildren from the abomination of Obamacare.

Posted by: AntonioSosa | August 19, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I am concerned that the public option has no provision for appeals from questionable
decisions. Private insurance decision can be contested in the courts.

I am not sure the government will offer an
appeal path for its insured. IMO, an appeal process is mandatory.


Posted by: bob80 | August 19, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Now Gibbs wants bipartisan support because he is going to need it to get a bill through. Despite what Schumer said about using reconciliation, Obama now needs the Republicans since he probably sill lose a lot of radicals in the House. Obama needs to triangulate as Clinton did or be a one term president. He over reached on Health Care which means Cap and Trade in its current radical form is dead. Bottom line, Obama is a loser.

Posted by: saelij | August 19, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

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