Thought I'd summarize why support for the public option is so tenacious. Here are 10 reasons.
1) Quick definition. The public option as proposed by the House bill and the HELP bill is a government-run health insurance policy that Americans could choose to purchase in lieu of a private health insurance plan. Rates and administrative overhead would be similar to Medicare (which is very affordable and popular). Overhead for Medicare is 3 percent compared with upwards of 40 percent for private insurance corporations.
2) The public option is supported by anywhere from 50-80 percent of the American people. Many polls show strong majority support from Republicans and Independents.
3) Competition from the public option incentivizes private insurers to reduce their premiums and provide better overall service in order to compete. So even people who don't sign up for the public option will see many benefits from the increased competition.
4) The public option might lead to a single-payer government health insurance system, but not a governent takeover of the entire healthcare system.
5) The public option is, in fact, a compromise position for liberals and progressives -- it's not a core policy position. Recent demand to either eliminate the public option or to weaken it is absolutely one compromise too many. We've played fair politics by moving closer to the center, now it's the center's turn to meet us here. Not the other way around.
6) The public option is an option of good conscience. One aspect of achieving "universal healthcare" is by mandating that everyone buy insurance. However, mandating that Americans buy a corporate health insurance policy amounts to a massive and compulsory giveaway to private, for-profit health insurance providers who have a long history of abusive and deadly practices, as well as using our money to finance record-breaking CEO salaries and bonuses. The public option is therefore an escape hatch for those of us who understand that mandates are necessary but who refuse to subsidize what we consider to be a legalized criminal enterprise.
7) The public option would be affordable, portable and reliable. If you can't afford your premium, there will be subsidies to help you. You can take your policy with you no matter where you go. And you will never have to worry about being dropped from your policy or being denied coverage when/if you're sick or injured.
8) The public option will save hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. For example, the CBO estimates that the cost of the Senate HELP Committee's reform bill will drop by as much as $400 billion over ten years if the public option is included. How does this work? See also numbers 3 and 9. In short: Competition reduces costs and premiums finance the system.
9) The public option is not free health insurance. Americans who choose to enroll would have to pay a premium just as with Medicare. So "you" wouldn't be financing "my" health insurance. (Also, no other nation has "free" health insurance. People in those nations either pay a premium or a higher tax rate in order to finance the system.)
10) Employers would not be able to sign up their employees for the public option right away. This would phase in over many years. However, employees have never been able to choose their own health insurance provider. Furthermore, no one will lose their health insurance. Under a compulsory universal system, this would be practically impossible. Meanwhile, however, tens of thousands of Americans are losing their health insurance every month -- in the current free market system. 3,000 Americans -- the same as were killed on 9/11 -- die every two months for a lack of affordable healthcare.
Feel free to add to the list in the comments.