Two freshman Democratic Representatives ,Jared Polis (CO2) and Chellie Pringree (ME1), are pushing hard to include a public option in any reconciliation measure meant to fix the current Senate bill. Polis and Pingree are currently circulating a letter in support of the public option, and are looking for signatures from their colleagues. From the Huffington Post:
“It is very likely that the public option could have passed the Senate, if brought up under majority-vote ‘budget reconciliation’ rules,” reads the letter. “While there were valid reasons stated for not using reconciliation before, especially given that some important provisions of health care reform wouldn’t qualify under the reconciliation rules, those reasons no longer exist.”
“There’s enthusiasm that if a majority of senators are on board with it, then we should go for it,” he said. “I think the inclusion of the public option would make that route much more attractive to House Democrats.”
Health care reform became less popular, Polis argued, when the public option was taken out but the requirement to buy private insurance or pay a fine remained.
It is good to see that at least two Democratic House members can read simple polling data. The public option is extremely popular, while the individual mandate in the Senate bill, which forces people to buy only private insurance, is incredibly unpopular. Fortunately, the addition of a public option even makes the unpopular individual mandate much more palatable to regular Americans.
No New Taxes?
What is very interesting about the letter is that Polis is one of the two authors. Throughout the health care debate, Polis was mainly known for taking the lead against the House’s surtax on the wealthy.
It is possible that Polis’s strong push for the public option right now might have a lot to due with its ability to save the bill money. It is rumored the current plan is to use reconciliation to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for the union deal on the excise tax. A move that would be political suicide for Democrats.
Any health care reconciliation measure this year must reduce the deficit to some extent, so any change to the very unpopular excise tax must be paid for. One option is new taxes or increases elsewhere; the other is to pay for the changes with popular cost savings provisions like a public option, Medicaid expansion, and/or Medicare buy-in. Clearly, the latter is what Polis should prefer personally, as it would be the smart choice politically for all Democrats. Sometimes good policy makes for good politics.