APPRECIATING THE MEANING OF ‘OPTIONAL’…. The phrase “public option” has caused some confusion in some circles, but I’d like to think English-speaking adults are at least familiar with the word “option.”

Jed Lewison flagged this unintentionally hilarious exchange between Sean Hannity and Dick Morris. It helps explain quite a bit about why conservatives seem so confused.

HANNITY: Harry Reid comes out today, says government option with the states’ ability to opt-out and it will include a co-op.

MORRIS: Opt-out if the Feds feel that they have successfully offered an alternative. The feds can say, ‘No, Alabama, you’re not doing enough…

HANNITY: So it’s not really an opt-out anyway?

MORRIS: It’s not really an opt-out.

HANNITY: And it’s not an individual — an individual can’t opt out.

MORRIS: Exactly.

HANNITY: It’s the state that has to opt-out.

“An individual can’t opt out.” It’s called a “public option.” It’s a subject that’s been debated for a year. It’s really not that complicated — eligible consumers choose between competing public and private insurance plans. They pick the one that they like best.

The public plan, in other words, is optional. States, under the current proposal, can choose not to let residents have the choice, but for everyone else, eligible consumers could pick. It’s why the word “option” appears right there in the name, “public option.”

Jed added, “There is literally no way to make any sense whatsoever of Hannity’s claim. Its connection with reality isn’t tenuous. It’s nonexistent.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.