The deal-breaking threshold

THE DEAL-BREAKING THRESHOLD…. Matt Yglesias calls them “Public Option Pragmatists” — progressive health care reform advocates who want a public option, and have supported and defended a public option, but who don’t want it to be a deal-breaker for the larger effort. For the Pragmatists, the public option is a good idea, but the overall effort is more important to more people than one worthwhile measure.

In general, the netroots have not looked kindly on “Public Option Pragmatists.” It was interesting, then, to see Chris Bowers, who has as much netroots credibility as anyone, embrace, with some apparent reluctance, the Pragmatists’ line.

For Bowers, it seems to come down to the plight of the uninsured, and the thousands of Americans who die every year because they lack coverage — a problem both the House and Senate bills would vastly improve.

Funneling huge amounts of customers and public money to for-profit health insurance companies is offensive to me ideologically. The continued lack of influence Congressional Progressives have over public policy is also extremely frustrating. However, thousands of people dying because they can’t afford any health insurance at all is much worse than both of those negative outcomes combined. I don’t think I could tell anyone who can’t afford any health insurance that I would prefer they not have any insurance at all than have subsidized insurance from a for-profit company.

Further, I don’t think I could tell anyone who can’t afford health insurance that I would prefer they not have any insurance at all than for the Progressive Caucus to remain relatively less-influential than the Blue Dogs. When faced with a choice between the status-quo and providing subsidies to make it easier for low-income people to purchase private health insurance, I choose the subsidies.

This strikes me as sound judgment. The nation has been struggling with the health care debate for a long time, and the progressive priority has always been to bring coverage to those who lack it. The Democratic plan does that. The public option is a bold, effective idea, which would do a lot of good, but it’s also a rather new idea — and the fight to approve new ideas usually takes more than one effort. In the meantime, subsidies and consumer protections would help millions who need it.

Ezra also noted that “social policy programs generally get better, rather than worse, over time…. This bill, when it’s finished, is not going to be very good. But it’s going to be a lot better than what we have, and almost more importantly, a lot easier to improve in the future.”

I’d just add that this calculation is slightly easier given that what’s left of the public option is a shell of its former self.