The Downside of the Public Option

In what was a remarkable turnaround—and a huge victory for progressives—last week, the House of Representatives passed a health care reform bill that includes a provision for a government-run program, which would compete with private health insurance plans. The Democrats managed to include the provision for a "public option" in spite of the fact that 39 Democrats and all but one Republican voted against it. President Obama ultimately campaigned hard for the provision, telling Democratic lawmakers that when the bill passes, "each and every one of you will be able to look back and say, 'This was my finest moment in politics.'"

But progressive Democrats had to make a painful compromise in order to get a public option included in the health care bill. To garner enough votes, they had to agree to attach the Stupak amendment, which says that no funds authorized under the bill "may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health care plan that includes abortion," except in cases involving rape or incest or in which the mother's life is in danger. As Timothy Noah explains, this amendment goes even further than existing prohibitions on using public money to pay for abortions, because not only would it forbid federal money to be used on abortions, but it would also prevent any private insurance plan that covers abortions from participating in the government program. That will make it difficult for any plan that includes abortion coverage—as more than 85 percent of private plans currently do—to compete, meaning that in practice it will probably be next to impossible to obtain abortion coverage even from private plans.

"Welcome to socialism," writes William Saletan. While the tea-bagger claim that a public health care plan like this one is tantamount to Soviet communism is ridiculous, conservative critics of a public option have a point when they argue that it would limit the choices currently available in the private market. Perhaps most progressives didn't realize that it means they would have to compromise too—in this case with people who don't want their tax dollars to pay for a procedure they find offensive. But that's the price we have to pay for public insurance. While the public option currently on the table is modest as far as socialized medicine goes, it does subsidize and standardize health insurance. And, as Saletan says, "when you do that, you invite public-sector problems into matters that used to be nobody's business."

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

What’s behind our appetite for self-destruction?

Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Each new year, people vow to put an end to self-destructive habits like smoking, overeating or overspending.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less