[S]enators said the tentative agreement would sideline but not kill the “public option” championed by President Obama and liberal Democrats in Congress.
Under the agreement, people ages 55 to 64 could “buy in” to Medicare. And a federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management, would negotiate with insurance companies to offer national health benefit plans, similar to those offered to federal employees, including members of Congress.
If these private plans did not meet certain goals for making affordable coverage available to all Americans, Senate Democratic aides said, then the government itself would offer a new insurance plan, somewhat like the “public option” in the bill Mr. Reid unveiled three weeks ago.
Obama supported, but never promised, a public option. He promised that people would have choice, which is what this provides. This is what he said in September:
My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. That's how the market works. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90 percent is controlled by just one company. And without competition, the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly — by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest, by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage, and by jacking up rates.
Now, it's worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn't be exaggerated -- by the left or the right or the media. It is only one part of my plan.
But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice.
I'm just putting this out there because the progressives are all going to start talking about how Obama doesn't deliver. Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, he is hewing as closely to his promises as just about any President we've ever had.
Frankly, the public option isn't that big a deal — what's important in this bill is that 30-40 million more people are going to be covered, and that insurance companies will end the (out-and-out evil) practices of denying people coverage based on pre-existing conditions and of imposing lifetime limits on the amount of compensation you can get (which means that cancer patients aren't going to get cut off after their treatment has cost, say, a million dollars).