Five Organizing Questions on the Opt-Out Public Option

The devil is in the details.

Following Chris' five process questions yesterday on the news that Reid will include an opt-out public option in the merged bill, I have five organizing questions of my own that I think are critical to making sure this bill is a success. As he wrote, a lot about the opt-out structure remains unclear, and I think the devil is in the details. These should serve as possible targets for amendments during the floor fight.

1. The date in which this starts. Availability of the public option is due to start in 2013. I see this as some bad and some good. On the bad side, there is limited help for people who need it now. It's also not clear to me that the bill itself gives Democrats a lot to work with in the midterm elections in terms to being able to demonstrate how health care is more affordable in November 2010. On the good side, things are going to get worse before they get better, so the "help is on the way" argument is useful, but not terribly compelling. Our side needs to make sure the date is as early as possible.

2. The timeline of opt-out. It is imperative that we push for states only being able to opt-out after the public option starts. People need to try this first before their state makes a decision. If there is no tangible benefit for people who need it, there will be no push to keep one's state from opting out.

And strategically, I prefer to only allow states to opt-out after their fellow residents have suffered under four more years of things getting either somewhat better or dramatically worse. The date in which states can opt out should be as late as possible. Let's dare the teabaggers and conservative legislators to look in the face of those who are getting screwed by insurance companies and tell them they aren't going to try something to help.


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