Editorial: Forget public option for now

By Staff Editorial

The public option appears to have died. May it rest in peace.

The Senate Finance Committee voted down two health care proposals that included versions of the public option. While Democrats promise to submit more bills that include the public option, such action will only prove detrimental to the rest of health care reform.

Universal health care is an incredible idea and something all Americans deserve. Yet, even after the heated debate has cooled — no more assault rifles at town halls — some Democrats still do not support a public option.

According to The New York Times, two Senate bills failed by margins of 15-8 and 13-10, with five and three Democrats voting down respectively. Of those Democratic senators, only one faces re-election in 2010, so critics cannot attribute their dissent to political expediency.

The public option simply failed. It is time to move on.

Continuing the public option debate will merely stall other necessary reforms to the health care system, such as ending pre-existing condition discrimination, providing for portable coverage and reducing wasteful spending in Medicare.

Hopefully, future sessions of Congress can add a public option with incremental legislation. For now, members should pass what they can, and a government health care program is not viable.

Also, other policies need the attention of the federal government. President Barack Obama promised to focus on three major issues during his first term: health care, global warming and education.

He should encourage Congress to pass health care reform — possibly with a strong non-profit co-op program as a compromise — and prepare for a passionate debate on the environment.

Currently, Democrats are floating a bill that would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade system, according to Reuters. In the meantime, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its intent to put new regulations on emissions.

Republicans will fight this with the vigor of a gorilla in heat, and Democrats cannot afford to play defense on two fronts at once.

But Democrats should concentrate on this bill as soon as possible, because passing such progressive legislation would greatly increase U.S. credibility at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December.

Then maybe Obama can start talking education. Where’s that $4000 tuition credit we heard so much about during the campaign?