This morning, before he voted for the public option, Senator Ron Wyden appeared on MSNBC's Morning Meeting with Dylan Ratigan to talk about his "Free Choice" amendment - a measure that would allow every American to choose to opt out of their employer health plan and into the health exchange (where the public option would be, if there is one).
Senator Wyden went head-to-head with a lobbyist from the American Benefits Council - a group that represents big employers (like Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Shell Oil, etc.) and health insurance and pharmaceutical companies (like Blue Cross, KP, Merck, Pfizer, etc.) The lobbyist, James Klein, argued against allowing Americans to take their employer's health care contribution into the health exchange.
Watch the video, as Wyden and Ratigan take apart the silly arguments promulgated by the industry lobbyist. (And be sure to watch all the way through - the last two minutes are rocketing around the blogosphere.)
Here's a brief quote from Arianna Huffington, who came into the conversation midway:
There's no way we can contain costs without bringing an element of choice and competition into the system. So, I'm very grateful to Senator Wyden for taking the leadership on this, because otherwise there's no point having so-called "reform" that will actually reform nothing. And, in fact, then Republicans will say, 'You see, another government reform effort that didn't work.'
She's exactly right. While we continue to fight for a public option, it's critical that it's a good public option - "full and robust" to use the parlance du jour. And that means making it available to everyone, not just as a fallback option for the poor, sick, unemployed, and uninsurable. As I wrote back in July:
I think it's critical that the public option doesn't get a brand image as ghettoized health care for poor people -- which is a serious risk if the only people who can choose it are those who are presently unemployed or who have employers who don't provide health care.
If that happens, Republicans will be able to brand the public option as just another welfare program - and we'll fight over it for decades to come. If, instead, it's perceived as an option for middle-income and high-income Americans, then it'll be seen as American-as-apple-pie and as politically unassailable as Social Security.
A public option that's built to last is a public option that's available to everyone.