From bloggers to established news reporters, coverage of raucous town hall meetings and efforts to “clarify” or sometimes recast the issues in the health reform debate are taking place in multiple forums. Last weekend the Associated Press reported data that showed that competition among health insurers in many market areas is limited, and that in a number of areas one or two companies dominate the marketplace. Critics of the current insurance-based health care payment system often point to a lack of competition among insurers as driving up the cost of premiums, contributing to a growing number of uninsured individuals and families. Democrats pushing a public plan option see that option as competing with private insurers, bringing down premium rates because the public plan will not be required to make a profit, and creating a healthier, more competitive market that will help keep prices down.
President Barack Obama, while indicating earlier in the year that he wants a tax-payer funded option, in Colorado over the weekend said that the public option is “just one sliver” of the entirety of health reform. Press reports quickly followed with details that a public option may not be an Obama-priority after all. However, the Wall Street Journal reported that a group of liberal bloggers raised $309,393 in 72 hours from 5,155 donors for Congressmen demanding the inclusion of a public health plan option. The issue continues to generate press and White House comments seeking to redefine the scope of the health reform package that now appears to be revolving around one issue.
With two weeks to go before Congress reconvenes to once again tackle the health reform issue and attempt to fashion legislation acceptable to both the House and Senate, there appears to be no consensus yet as to whether the public option is out, is in, and if in, what form it will take.