The current buzz on health care/insurance reform, as reported by Bloomberg.com, is that the Obama administration may be stepping back from including a "public option"--that is, a government-run insurance program to compete with private companies--in reaction to widespread popular resistance to such an approach. According to the story, "the Senate Finance Committee is discussing cooperatives, or networks of health-insurance plans owned by their customers, that would get started with government funds as an alternative to the public plan." However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a number of the more liberal Senators, Representatives and Democratic leaders (Maxine Waters, Jay Rockefeller, Howard Dean) still strongly favor government insurance, and have said that they won't support a reform package that doesn't include it. Nor has the President clearly endorsed any other approach.
Wavering on this issue among reform supporters shouldn't be cause for celebration by conservatives, at least yet. The "public option" is still backed by the Democrat party establishment, and it's doubtful they would seriously consider anything else unless and until their backs are pinned to the wall and the political futility of government-run health care is made plain to them beyond rational denial. At the same time, the somewhat more palatable alternative of federally subsidized cooperative networks may still, depending on how the system is set up, provide an infrastructure and incentives that could extend government influence into, and eventually control over, private insurance and health care (not to mention taxpayer-funded coverage of abortion). An Associated Press analysis based on interviews with several authorities indicates that it would be years before the federal government could relinquish control of start-up co-ops to their governing boards, while some critics charge that taxpayers and politicians might be too invested in co-ops to ever agree to eliminate the government's role in them. In the end, this approach could turn out to be a "foot in the door" for socialized medicine, a tactic its advocates have used for decades to advance their goals.
PLEASE listen to this 10-minute discussion by the late President Ronald Reagan, who provided a compelling description, all the way back in 1961--long before he became President--of how this indirect approach may eventually bring us to the point of no-choice, government-controlled health care (this is a longer version of a clip that appeared on my sister's blog a couple of weeks ago). Then think again about what level of federal involvement in providing and insuring health care, if any, that you'd be comfortable with.