The Public Option: Still Dead

by Ramesh Ponnuru

If Obamacare fails in a really big way–whether because Republicans will have sabotaged it, because it was poorly designed, or both–will we end up with the public option or with single payer? Some conservatives worry about this prospect. In Slate, two law students suggest that knocking out the individual mandate could lead us back to the public option, which obviously pleases them.

It’s not going to happen. Democrats are unlikely to have the presidency, a huge majority in the House, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate any time soon. If they weren’t able to get single payer or a public option when they had them, they’re not going to get it in the future.

The Slate authors put too much stock in polls purporting to show that most people either like Obamacare or “wish it were even stronger.” But think about how their scenario would actually unfold in practice. Obamacare has survived except for the individual mandate, which has been struck down by the courts. Premiums are going up, coverage down. Are voters likely to be mad at the judge for striking down an unpopular part of the law? At Republican politicians for egging the judge on? Will they really be clamoring for the Democrats to pass a new super-duper reform? I wouldn’t bet on it.

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