Public Strongly Supports Public Health Care Option

Yesterday, what prompted CNBC's Jim Cramer to suggest that President Barack Obama needed "to go away for a little bit," was a poll, whose numbers indicated that Americans were more concerned with curbing federal deficits than with additional economic stimulus. This data was then strangely extrapolated by Joe Scarborough to conclude that it put "the Obama administration behind the eight ball on health care." That seemed to me like it was a case of waterboarding a poll to elicit a false confession.

To see where the public alignment is on health care reform, wouldn't a poll on health care reform be a tad more instructive? Enter Greg Sargent:

A new poll by a nonpartisan, D.C.-based research group finds truly overwhelming support for the public option. The kicker: The poll was bankrolled partly by previous opponents of health care reform, including one of the nation's best-known insurance companies.

The poll -- which was just released by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a D.C. policy think tank -- finds that a majority (53%) strongly back the availability of a public plan, while another 30% "somewhat" support it. That's a total of 83% in favor of a public plan -- a staggeringly large majority.

Significantly, that poll was commissioned by some of the organizations who opposed health care reform in the 1990s.

Sargent wisely notes that one shouldn't construe these numbers as being "uniformly good for Obama's plan," only that support for a public plan is vast. It seems to me that the fastest way for the White House to get "behind the eight ball on health care" would be for them to follow Tom Daschle's advice and drop the public option.

Nevertheless, all the hue and cry over THE DEFICITS seem to have had their effect. Via Ezra Klein comes the news that the latest version of the health care reform proposal sitting in front of the Senate Finance Committee has gone against the will of the people:

Sources say that it's a major scale-back of the outline they had before. Specifically, subsidies have dropped from 400 percent of the poverty line to 300 percent. Medicaid eligibility has been tightened to 133 percent of poverty for children and pregnant women and 100 percent of poverty for parents and childless adults. The plans being offered in the exchange have seen their actuarial values sharply lowered.

Beyond the changes, this is also the clearest look we've had at the specific policies being considered. There's a fairly strong individual mandate, albeit with exemptions for those beneath the poverty line, those who would have to spend more than 15 percent of income for a plan, and undocumented workers. There are a variety of options for an employer mandate, or the absence of one. Sen. Kent Conrad's co-op idea is up for discussion. There's no public plan mentioned anywhere in the document.

Make no mistake: if health care reform gets watered down into useless marm, the media -- with its newfound and insensate panic attacks over deficits -- will have had a hand in it.

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