Chuck Schumer just forced the Senate Finance Committee's Health Care Coverage Roundtable to address the public plan. And give Schumer some credit. He didn't hedge. "Just as bad as a public plan with an unfair advantage," he said, "is no public plan at all. My colleague from Kansas said the American people don't want the government involved. Well, let me tell you, the American people have some problems with the government. But they have a lot more problems with private insurers."
Schumer went on to argue that opposition to the public plan is predicated on a high-functioning insurance market that doesn't now, and hasn't ever, existed. Private insurers, Schumer exclaimed, can't even tell you what a given treatment costs. They won't release their data on either quality or prices. This is not an elegant market that should be protected from further competitive pressures. This is a mess in desperate need of new players with new incentives. "To not have a public plan and let it compete the way [Senator Baucus] outlines in his white paper is, in my view, closeminded," said Schumer. Then he paused, and smiled, looking out over a crowd think with industry representatives. "In my view," he continued, "it may even be a little self interested."
Oh, and one more thing. Never the sort of guy to use a scalpel when a sledgehammer will do, Schumer, God love him, is calling his public insurance option "Plan USA."
Related: Chuck Schumer's public plan compromise.