The Public Option: Successful Issue Framing

Why weren’t we doing this all along?

Setting aside the merits of Ms. Graham, framing the public option as an effort to improve competition is a winning argument, built to defuse immature allegations of “socialism,” and emphasizing poll numbers helps diffuse the idea that Obama is “losing” this argument. This is the kind of the thing we used to be good at, kind of, during the general election. It’s good to see some effort to reclaim that skill.



  1. Here’s a theory of mine which I have no hard data to back up: When pollers, pundits, politicians, etc ask people about a ‘public option’ I think a LOT of folks aren’t viewing it as a need to compete with their existing plan. I think most people who have insurance generally think it’s a pretty good plan. Where the public option comes in is as a Plan B i.e I lose my job and I need coverage until I find a new one. THAT is what a huge majority of Americans want and what I think even a lot of conservatives could get on board with.

    I guess with all this talk about the public option I am a bit confused as to liberal goals. Originally this conversation seemed to be about getting the uninsured covered. Now we’re talking about making the prices cheaper for those already with insurance. Meanwhile I don’t see a whole lot of effort being put into covering the uninsured other than your basic social programs which was sort of the most obvious choice anyway. So again, how did this morph so quickly? And before someone says, “Well you see, if there is competition than costs will go down and companies that were previously unable to offer insurance now can, etc, etc” but that ignores the fact that the employers who couldn’t offer insurance before are not suddenly going to be able to afford it now. Even if the public option does reduce costs, it will take years. So with the ‘convienent’ 2013 start date that Democrats are talking about it’s liable to be 2020 or later before we see real results. So is 11 years a reasonable timeframe?

    1. DickTurpis · ·

      While I don’t see why there’s such opposition to the public option, I don’t really see it as being some sort of magic bullet that will make a huge difference either. I’ll be the first to admit that I have no real figures to work with, but I’m going to guess that a well run government funded insurance program will perhaps be able to cut overall costs by something in the range of 20% (this may well be an optimistic assessment). For those families, and there are many, living a hand-to-mouth existence, I don’t see being able to save 20% on health insurance making it much more affordable than a 20% discount on an Aston Martin would make that available to your minimum wage earner. Yeah, it will help some people, certainly, if it works as it should, but it’s a far cry from universal coverage.

  2. I really haven’t been following the details of the health insurance reform that closely, but I get the feeling the public option is not much different from the Medicare levy. Basically what we have down here in the great southern land is either a) you get private health insurance, or b) you pay a 1.5% tax, unless you are exempt for certain reasons. I don’t know what they are but I have never paid it. I am pretty sure you can even go into private hospitals on Medicare if you are willing to pay the difference to the cost of staying in a public hospital. I know I have gone to private hospitals for x-rays and was never sent a bill for it.

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