Obama Moves the Goal Posts for the Public Option

On NBC’s Meet the Press today White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod sent the strongest signals yet, that the Obama administration is preparing to dump the public option in order to get a healthcare reform bill passed. Axelrod said, “He said there must, he said there must be a, an exchange where people can get insurance at a competitive price.” This doesn’t sound like a firm stand on the public option.

Host David Gregory played the president’s original statement on the public option from July 18, “That’s why any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange, a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, costs and track records of a variety of plans, including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest, and choose what’s best for your family.”

Axelrod then spun Obama’s comment away from the public option, “He said there must–he said there must be a, an exchange where people can get insurance at a competitive price. He believes in competition and choice. The public option is a, is an important tool to help promote that where there is no competition. He still believes that…”

He continued, “If you don’t have insurance today, if don’t have insurance through your employer and you need to get a policy, it costs you three times as much, on the average, as it would if you had employer coverage. People simply can’t afford it. One of the ways–so we want to create a pool in which people who don’t have insurance, and small businesses, can go and get insurance at a competitive price. And a public option would be a valuable tool within that group, that package of plans that would be offered, private and public.”

Instead of the public option, the insurance exchange, which Republicans support, is now considered the essential component of the plan, while the public option is now just a tool. One doesn’t have be a genius to see what is going on here. The White House is laying the groundwork for dumping the public option, while still claiming victory because they got the insurance exchange.”

Does anyone really believe that the exchange will produce the kind of competition that a public option would? The exchange would help people who already have insurance compare prices, but what about those people who still can’t afford the cost of the insurance offered in the exchange? Those people will still be uninsured.

Without a public option for the poor and the working poor, this bill has a hole in it big enough to drive a truck through. The only way to get everyone affordably covered without a public option is to impose an employer mandate, and Republicans will never support that. I think that a public option trigger is still possible, and this might be the best Democrats will get.

Even though Robert Gibbs was on ABC saying that Obama is going to argue for the public option on Wednesday, it is looking more likely that instead of fighting for the public option, the White House is going to dump it, and the change their definition of victory when it comes to healthcare reform. Obama seems more interesting in passing a bill, than going to the mat for the public option.

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