Public option


First, here is a compromise that should work for moderates and progressives: Congress can pass a bill including reform of private insurers, support for insurance co-ops and a Medicare-like public option that would automatically trigger in January 2013, without any further legislative action, if specific standards are not met by December 2012.

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The standards for coverage and cost would be specified. The president would release quarterly progress reports starting three months after enactment.

Moderates and moderate conservatives would be assured that private insurance and co-ops would have every opportunity to work under conditions most favorable to them. Those who believe that private insurers and co-ops will end the abuses will have their chance.

For progressives, the public option would be enacted this year. We would know with 100 percent certainty that clear standards for historic reform would be achieved, one way or the other, by a time certain. Consumers would benefit immediately. Insurers would know that the first presidential-standards report is three months away. Americans will have a steady stream of data proving whether insurers are protecting them or ripping them off. The policy would align with public opinion and the public interest.

As former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle so wisely said on Sunday in support of the public option: Its strongest opponents concede the core point: They believe it would be wildly popular with consumers! The reality of a public option, or the certain prospect of it if the industry fails to meet standards, is the one and only guarantee of powerful reform.

Every Democratic senator should oppose a filibuster of the healthcare bill. Democratic leaders would move the bill through normal legislative procedures.

The attacks on this bill have included far too many deceptions, slanders, fearmongering tactics and outright lies that border on fomenting personal hatred toward the president in ways unworthy of any great party, in any great nation.

When a Republican senator on the Finance Committee gives public credence to the lie that the president wants panels that will lead to the death of senior citizens, he is committing an infamy against truth and honor in political debate that is unworthy of the Senate and makes a mockery of bipartisanship.

When a prominent cable talk show host who is purportedly a Democrat uses the occasion of Sen. Kennedy’s funeral to accuse supporters of the public option of being like the PLO, he speaks volumes about the failure of modern news and the weakness of certain Democrats.

When a “senior white house adviser” tells The Washington Post that he cannot understand why “the left of the left” is fixated on the public option, this is not a person whose vision is working for a president like Caroline Kennedy’s father.

On Wednesday the president addresses the nation in a chamber that will have one empty seat too many. If he speaks in the spirit of Sen. Edward Kennedy he will combine high principle with principled compromise and this story will have a happy ending, this presidency will flourish again and we will have a president like Sen. Kennedy’s brother.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.