If costs are the main concern…

IF COSTS ARE THE MAIN CONCERN…. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), the co-chair of the Blue Dog caucus, has been trying to determine the specific priorities of the other center-right Democrats. She’s found that the public option isn’t at the top of the list. “I understand the media’s focus on the public option, but for the Blue Dogs right now it’s much more on cost,” Herseth Sandlin said.

I’m glad to hear that. Because as Ezra Klein noted, the Congressional Budget Office has found that adding a public option to the health care system, and paying Medicare reimbursement rates, “will save even more money than originally thought.” Congress Daily reported, “In total, a public plan based on Medicare rates would save $110 billion over 10 years,” $20 billion more than earlier estimates.

Ezra added, “In other words, the conservatives want to spend $85 billion more than the liberals do.”

Kevin Drum highlighted ancillary benefits throughout the system:

[A] public option would save anywhere between $2 billion and $11 billion per year depending on whether or not it’s based on Medicare rates. That’s savings to the government, and it’s based on the fact that the public option would lower the cost of insurance and the feds would therefore have to pay lower subsidies to low-income households buying coverage under the individual mandate. However, if the private plans lower their prices to compete with the public option, then everyone buying insurance would save money, not just low-income families, and the total cost savings to consumers would be much higher.

For those who believe holding down costs and fiscal responsibility are key, it seems like the public option should be a no-brainer.

Also note that while poll numbers are always in flux, support for the public option remains quite strong. The NYT/CBS poll released today found 65% support a public health insurance option — up five points from the last NYT/CBS poll — and more people would oppose a health care plan without a public option than favor, 40% to 38%.

For that matter, a plurality of self-identified Republicans also expressed their support for the public option, and support among independents was better than two to one. And that’s after months of conservatives trashing the idea on a daily basis.

As the debate heats up, we’re learning that most of the public supports the same provision that would save all of us money. Maybe Congress should pass it.

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