Kevin Drum notes that Republicans insist on something called “entitlement reform,” but have no actual ideas about what this reform might mean (aside from getting rid of Medicare). So now they are insisting that President Obama make the first offer, which is a laughable position. The also insist on “putting Obamacare on the table”, which the White House immediately rejected.

But maybe it shouldn’t. If we’re talking about reducing entitlement payments, wouldn’t it be great if we could find something that could save, say, $500 billion over ten years, but not reduce access to coverage and actually make the health care system more efficient?

Oh wait: we do! Remember the public option? That’s what it would do, according to the Lewin Group and the Urban Institute. Both studies estimated a public option at saving the federal budget $50 billion a year. And if anything, those estimates are conservative, because they do not assume that Medicare providers would be mandated to accept public option patients (as they should be), and they also assume large “cost shifts,” i.e. increases in private insurance costs, which have no empirical basis. So I say put Obamacare on the table and put in a strong public option.

What’s that you say? That such an action would reform entitlements and save money, but that the Republicans would never go for it? Gosh, it’s almost as if the GOP doesn’t really care about saving money and really only wants to cut people off of health insurance. I can’t imagine why anyone would think that.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff is a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles.