We’ve heard a lot about the "public option" in the news recently.
Obama administration officials and congressional Democrats standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the proposal while drawing rapid fire from Conservatives displays the kind of unity Democrats will need to win on other big issues like immigration and education reform in the near future.
What we haven’t heard from the Obama administration – at least not in a clear, digestible way - is what the public option will look like. If it is the last, or the main sticking point of the debate, detailing just what it would mean for the average person could end the stalemate and cool some of the anxiety it is generating across the country.
Where are the talking points on the public option?
We know the legislative details are being compromised in the chambers of Congress and the will-dos and won’ts are still being hammered out and smoothed over in political and policymaking strategy sessions.
But it would help for President Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, the Congressional Black Caucus and other congressional Dems to give some form to the very abstract public option they’ve been waxing about at length – but with little depth.
A list of pointers would help. What will it cover? What won’t it cover? Who will qualify? Who won’t? How will it prop up people transitioning between jobs? What will be the income range of the people who will qualify? Will it affect seniors or children? What about Medicaid? What will be the checks and balances installed that will prevent it from mushrooming into an unaffordable, ineffective public program that harms more than it heals?
A lot of questions remain unanswered. And if the pundits on the political Left are right: that racial attitudes and fears of a brand new welfare system that disproportionately benefits minorities are coloring the debate - then having some details about this proposal will help.
How can supporters of the public option stand for it or combat misinformation about it without having a clue of what it would entail? The only thing most people know is that it will be a government-financed program that pays for the medical needs of the uninsured with a goal to "increase choice and lower costs."
The public option needs to be rescued from the tug of war between the Right and the Left. It also needs to be clarified – given some structure. Right now, although it’s vague, the public option is being volleyed around as the make-and-break piece of the health care puzzle as it falls into place. If it ever will.