HOW BIG PHARMA INTENDS TO KILL THE PUBLIC OPTION -- AND IT CAN BE STOPPED.

I poked around Washington on Friday, talking with friends on the Hill who confirmed the worst: Big Pharma and Big Insurance are gaining ground in their campaign to kill the public option in the emerging health-care bill.

You know why, of course. They don't want a public option that would compete with private insurers and use its bargaining power to negotiate better rates with drug companies. They argue that would be unfair. Unfair? Unfair to give more people better health-care at lower cost? To Pharma and Insurance, "unfair" is anything that undermines their profits.

So they're pulling out all the stops -- pushing Democrats and a handful of so-called "moderate" Republicans who say they're in favor of a public option to support legislation that would include it in name only. One of their proposals is to break up the public option into small pieces under multiple regional third-party administrators that would have little or no bargaining leverage. A second is to give the public option to the states where Big Pharma and Big Insurance can easily buy off legislators and officials, as they've been doing for years. A third is to bind the public plan to the same rules private insurers have already wangled, thereby making it impossible for the public plan to put competitive pressure on the insurers.

More after the jump.

--Robert Reich

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