It is more important that health-care legislation inject stiff competition among insurance plans than it is for Congress to create a pure government-run option, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said.”The goal is to have a means and a mechanism to keep the private insurers honest,” he said in an interview. “The goal is non-negotiable; the path is” negotiable.
President Barack Obama has campaigned vigorously for a full public option. But he’s also said that he won’t draw a “line in the sand” over this point. On Tuesday, the White House issued a statement reiterating his support for a public plan.
“I am pleased by the progress we’re making on health care reform and still believe, as I’ve said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest,” the president said in the statement. “I look forward to a final product that achieves these very important goals.”
While some have drawn lines in the sand, Rahm Emanuel gets it right. What is important is the final result and that solutions be offered to problems. Some on the left have concentrated too much on the path, threatening to vote against bills which achieve the desired goals if they do not do it in the manner they prefer.
If a perfect health reform bill was passed which imposed the necessary restrictions on insurance companies it would not be necessary to have a public plan. It might be argued that to demand a public plan is to be conceding that the health care legislation will not produce the needed reform. Of course this is also a realistic position, knowing that there is a strong chance that insurance companies will find ways to circumvent regulations to maximize profits regardless of what laws are written.
Many liberal bloggers such as Ezra Klein question why any compromise is needed with the Democrats controlling the White House and both houses of Congress. If Congress can pass legislation which contains a public plan then this whole discussion of compromise becomes irrelevant. The reason that it does remain a matter of discussion is that it is not yet certain whether the Democrats will remain united to pass a bill with a public plan. Moderate Democrats might join the Republicans in voting against a public plan. It is then that we should remember Rahm Emanual’s stress on the goal rather than the path and still push for legislation which prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to those who need it in order to maximize profits.