Aug. 17th, 2009

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For those who feel disappointed and disillusioned by the story this weekend that President Obama was abandoning the public option, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that he hasn't reversed his position. The bad news is that his position has never been what you thought it was.

At a town hall meeting on Saturday, Obama said something he's said before - that a public health plan is not the only important part of health care reform - and the AP and the media spun it into "Obama throws public option under bus". The AP article contrasts Obama's comment this weekend to an earlier statement that doesn't actually contrast with it. In July he said that "one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices and assure quality is a public option". Notice how he didn't say that a public option is the only way to achieve the goal? How he didn't say that health care reform without a public option is meaningless?

Obama thinks that a public health insurance program offered alongside private insurance is the best way to ensure all Americans can get the health care they need. However, if if health care reform without a public option makes it through Congress, he's not going to throw a tantrum and kill the bill. This is Obama's position. It hasn't changed.

President Obama still supports a public option. I don't believe he's given up on it. But other people have! And one of the best of them is Nate Silver, who explained on fivethirtyeight.com yesterday why he considers the public option unlikely to pass, what he thinks about the prospects for reform without a public option, and what to do next.

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