Ways To Skin Cat
A lot of progressives are focused on today's events in the Senate Finance Committee as a sort of Battle of Armageddon on health care reform, since the Committee will formally vote on a Rockefeller-Schumer amendment to add a public option to the Baucus proposal, which currently lacks one. You can follow the action via Tim Noah's liveblog at Slate.
But as Chris Bowers keeps pointing out at OpenLeft, the Finance markup isn't the last, or even the best, opportunity for a public option to emerge in the Senate debate. That will happen when the Finance and HELP Committee versions of health care reform are merged under the direction of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, with our without the benefit of budget reconciliation rules. There's another possible shot at a public option in a House-Senate conference committee, but it's unlikely the Senate will be any friendlier to the idea later rather than sooner.
Now that's all she wrote to a lot of progressives; either the public option is attached to the bill, or health care reform legislation has failed and isn't worth pursuing, since it merely represents gigantic subsidies to private health insurers. If you are in that camp, you might want to force yourself to read Jonathan Cohn's piece today on health reform without a public option in The Netherlands.
Cohn's basic point is that aggressive government regulation of private health insurers can accomplish a lot of the same things as competition from a public option, particularly in terms of limiting out-of-pocket consumer costs and preventing discriminatory treatment of the sick and/or poor. Moreover, such regulations are often politically popular, even among rank-and-file Republicans. So it might be a good idea, during the Senate Finance Committee and later in the process, to focus a bit on the regulatory questions that will determine the ground rules for any new competitive system of health insurance, whether or not a "robust" public option is one of the players.