We Dirty Hippies Were Right About The Public Option

In light of the revelations that Aetna told the federal government that if its proposed merger didn’t go through, it would pull out of ACA (‘Obamacare’) exchanges, let’s flashback to 2009 (boldface mine):

President Obama’s advisers acknowledged Tuesday that they were unprepared for the intraparty rift that occurred over the fate of a proposed public health insurance program, a firestorm that has left the White House searching for a way to reclaim the initiative on the president’s top legislative priority.

Administration officials insisted that they have not shied away from their support for a public option to compete with private insurance companies, an idea they said Obama still prefers to see in a final bill.

But at a time when the president had hoped to be selling middle-class voters on how insurance reforms would benefit them, the White House instead finds itself mired in a Democratic Party feud over an issue it never intended to spotlight.

I don’t understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo,” said a senior White House adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We’ve gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don’t understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform.”

“It’s a mystifying thing,” he added. “We’re forgetting why we are in this.”

Another top aide expressed chagrin that a single element in the president’s sprawling health-care initiative has become a litmus test for whether the administration is serious about the issue.

“It took on a life of its own,” he said….

When the Obama campaign first crafted its health-care proposal, the creation of a government-sponsored insurance option “was not the most important thing,” said David Cutler, a Harvard University economics professor and campaign adviser on health-care issues.

Obama, like Cutler, embraced the concept because it would afford consumers more options, Cutler said.

But no one could have predicted…

Except for the dirty fucking hippies. We knew that without a government plan as a backstop, everyone’s health insurance would exist at the whim of privately-owned companies.

As one person put it, “Those who were prematurely correct about single payer will be as loathed in DC as those prematurely correct on Iraq.” Or even the public option.

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6 Responses to We Dirty Hippies Were Right About The Public Option

  1. anthrosciguy says:

    Or we could have put in strict controls on health insurance company profits, as I understand Switzerland (and France?) as part of their participation. Would they have gone along? Without choice, yes, since the question would be “do you want a guaranteed profit of X?”. But that’s a no-no in the USA*.

    But yes, one of those things needs to be done, and someday probably will (unless we chose to descend back into the abyss). And those who pointed out that either strict controls or single-payer were necessary will indeed be ignored in the process.

    * Politically this is supposedly impossible, but in the wake of the bank/insurance crash just before Obama was first elected to the presidency it would have, I think, been quite possible to do so by continually pointing out that these are the people who crashed the economy and stuffed your house and retirement portfolio values into the toilet and flushed and flushed (chortling while they did so).

  2. Tracy Lightcap says:

    Nah, it was politically impossible. What we got was pushing it.

    So, we’ll have to slowly revise the program to take care of semi-foreseeable glitches. Or, to put it another way, we’ll have to treat this just like all our other social programs. All of them started flawed and got slowly and incompletely revised. So will the ACA. Learn to live with it. And quit trying to gloat about problems you foresaw at inception that there was not a snowball’s chances in Hell of solving before you got the original program.

    Nobody said that politics was easy. Well, except maybe Mike.

    • paintedjaguar says:

      Pretty damn hard to “live with it” if you’re one of the millions who might die due to lack of healthcare access under Obamacare. And the point you almost manage to make is that even now people fall through the cracks of SS and Medicare because they were compromised and incremental by design. Obamacare is even worse, but it does serve the purpose of blocking anything better from happening — as it was meant to. Sometimes “settling” is the worst thing you can do.

  3. anthrosciguy says:

    I missed the “it’s easy” part, either in Mike’s or my statements. Maybe you could point them out. I also wish I had your ability to know things for sure that we simply can’t know for sure.

  4. Benjamin L Coomer says:

    Yeah. Us stupid progressivestuff. We keep insisting that plans SOLVE problems instead of operating only in the realm of what’s supposedly politically possible.

  5. Tracy Lightcap says:

    In answer to most of the above:

    Buy, then read Duncan Watts’s Everything Is Obvious Once You Know the Answer. Go on. I’ll be right here when you are finished.

    Done? Then you know that most attempts to put together plans that solve problems in a single stroke fail miserably and that in the few instances where they don’t the success is almost certainly due to sheer bum luck. The reason for this is a persistent human trait to translate our own “common sense” ideas of how to form policies into ideas about how to make complex institutions work. There is simply no congruence between the two. That’s why incremental decision making usually works best; that way you get to see how things are working out then change them accordingly. Problem = if you think it’s hard to get uniform plans of change enacted, you need to think again. All changes to complex institutions are difficult politically by definition. Again, that’s why incremental changes are politically difficult, by definition long term, and require political dedication and long-standing organizations (political parties, iow) to make them work.

    The problem I have with so much of what I see at this site is that there is so little recognition of these relatively innocuous points. Too put it short, you compromise to get change you want and then you work to make the change work better. Nothing else works.

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