In light of reports that Senate Dems may strip the public option and the employer mandate from the health-care bill, Steve M. asks a good question: "Is this even worth it? Is it even worth fighting to pass a compromised, inadequate bill?"

I largely agree with his take on the politics. But even if getting any bill called "health-care reform" passed would be good short-term politics, it's worth further emphasizing that signing a bill without (at a minimum) a public option would be a substantive disaster. Such a bill would not be "reform" in any meaningful sense.

The normal justification for passing a compromise bill is that once a new system is entrenched it can be tweaked later. But I don't think it applies in this case. The public option is the core of the reform; a Blue Dog bill isn't so much half a loaf as a few meaningless crumbs. And far from making a public option more viable in the future, if anything, passing something that could be called health-care reform will reduce the impetus to pass actual reform. And, worse, a bill with no public option will further entrench the insurance industry and make it easier for them to block actual reform in the future.

There's no inherent value to passing a health care bill, per se. If it doesn't contain the elements that make it worthwhile, progressives shouldn't let it out of Congress, and Obama should make clear that a Blue Dog bill would be vetoed. A bad bill would be worse than no bill.

--Scott Lemieux

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