hat tip – Admiral_Komack

So says Al Giordano

From The Field

Health Care “Opt Out” Baits a Trap for US Republicans
Posted by Al Giordano – October 27, 2009 at 10:05 am

Prior to October 20, just a week ago, the “conventional wisdom” among Washington DC-centric pundits and bloggers was that the so-called “public option” on the upcoming national health care bill was dead in the water.

Since October 20, the same voices have shifted to a presumption that the public option – in which the US government would create its own health program (much like it already has for members of Congress) to compete with private insurance companies, bring their prices down, and offer another option to citizens – is now a done deal and the remaining question is what kind of public option will be approved by Congress.

What changed on October 20 to so radically shift the beltway CW?

315,023 phone calls – deployed by Organizing for America, President Obama’s grassroots political arm – that flooded the US Capitol switchboard in a single day: that, and that alone, is what shifted the ground beneath the health care debate. Those that participated in organizing that warning shot know it even while many who did not lift a finger for it look for other explanations for this positive shift in the discourse.

Opponents have framed the public option as a stealth first step to a national “single payer” plan of universal national health care administrated by the government, and they may well be proved right about that in years to come. Meanwhile, the fact that the President, years ago as an Illinois state senator, supported a single payer solution, has been bandied about by some proponents this year as evidence that he either sold out “the base” (what some white college educated progressives call, um, some white college educated progressives) or that his attention to practical realities somehow indicate that he lacks a political backbone.

Which brings us to the next media sensation in the debate as health care legislation rounds third base and heads toward the home plate: What is looking increasingly like an “opt out” provision in the bill which would gain the remaining stragglers among Democratic US Senators who have been hostile to the public option all summer long. It is a compromise – as legislation always involves – that would allow individual states (presumably via state legislatures, although the final bill hasn’t been written yet) to “opt out” of the public option on health care.

“Opting out” is perhaps not the right term for what would happen if, say, Oklahoma’s – or another state’s – legislature and governor availed themselves of that provision. What they would really be doing, in effect, is prohibiting their own citizens from benefiting from the national public health care program, imposing only private insurance company options upon those citizens.

What nobody has mentioned so far – so let me please do so – is the political trap an “opt out” provision would set for health care opponents, particularly those in the Republican Party.

Let’s imagine that after more than 60 years of failure, Congress finally, this fall, approves a health care bill and that it has a public option but also with the “opt out” provision for states. Americans throughout the land – particularly the tens of millions without any health insurance at all and the many more who are unhappy with their private sector health plans – will feel a great wave of relief and hope for improvement of their own families’ daily lives.

Any state legislature and governor that then decides to “opt out” – thus denying their own citizens the option to sign up for national government sponsored health insurance – will then have provoked a lasting political storm upon themselves. It will become very personal, as people realize that Governor Smith or State Senator Jones directly denied their children what other Americans have won.

In the 26 states – 24 of them west of the Mississippi – that have statewide referenda processes, any state that opted out would be subject to public referendum campaigns aimed at reversing the opt-out. These would be a community organizer’s dream and an anti-public option politician’s nightmare. Even in those states without referendum processes, the public ire would be focused on those state legislators and governors that denied their own citizens access to what citizens in other states will have: a federal health insurance option to compete with those offered by the big insurance companies.

All political hell would break loose in any state where the legislature and governor opted out of national public health care, because they won’t really be opting out, but, rather, would be slamming a door on their own constituents. In those states, entrenched legislators once thought to be permanent in their seats would become electorally vulnerable. In the 2010 and 2012 elections many will be unseated by challengers who vow to return the stolen public health care option to the people. Such a dynamic would surely fall more heavily on Republicans, but also on some conservative Democrats as well.

The “opt out” clause, on a policy level, is a distasteful compromise, but on the level of electoral politics it is pure political gold, especially for pro-public health care Democrats. It could lead Republican legislatures and governors in key states to be replaced by Democratic majorities. It would become the battle cry to register millions of non-voters from the most marginalized sectors of society – those without any health insurance at all, first and foremost – to inundate the polling places in years to come.

Read the entire article at the link above.

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