Have liberals forgotten about the public option?
Supporters of health care reform are on the defensive these days; if Republicans sweep the 2012 elections, liberals will be hard-pressed to prevent a complete repeal of ACA. But what if Democrats win a solid victory in 2012, sending Barack Obama back to the White House, returning a Democratic majority to the House, and picking up a couple of seats in the Senate? What would be the health care agenda then? Would the Democrats go back and finish what they had started by reviving and passing a public option on health care?
It’s still very early, but the first hints are a lot less promising than I would have expected for public option supporters. I checked the web sites of non-incumbent Democrats running for the Senate with decent chances of winning this year: those running in open seats and weak Republican seats in Nevada and Massachusetts. Of the seven candidates in six states that I looked at who had issue positions listed (a few still have only placeholder or minimal sites so far), none of them mentioned a public option. None. Two mentioned drug reimportation; two didn’t mention health care at all.
The truth is that in the case of Democratic landslide, adding a public option would actually be quite possible – and a lot easier than it would have been back in 2009. That’s because unlike the full ACA back then, a public option would almost certainly be possible to include in a reconciliation bill, which would need only a simple majority in the Senate. On top of that, the public option (as liberals pointed out nonstop back then) has always polled extremely well. Granted, the Supreme Court decision could throw everything off-kilter, and there’s no guarantee at all that Democrats will win big in November. But if they do, it’s actually not that hard to pass – if it’s a campaign priority for those Democrats who win.
As I said, it’s very early, and most of these candidates have fairly slim issue sections on their web pages. But of course that’s when it’s easiest to influence them. Hey, liberals! You want a public option on health insurance? Make it a mandatory position for Democrats running for Congress, and sooner or later the Dems will have a good year and they’ll pass it. Or, if you forget about it now, odds are it will never be passed.