Saturday, August 29, 2009

So what the hell's a "public option"?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Nate Silver reports on a new poll that shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike (if more the latter than the former, predictably enough), really have no idea what a "public option" would be.

Only 37%, in fact, correctly identified it. The rest either didn't know or thought it was a co-op network or a national, British-style system.

What the poll also shows is that there is fairly widespread support, including among Republicans, for "a new federal health insurance plan that individuals could purchase if they can’t afford private plans offered to them," even if this isn't exactly a great definition of the proposed public option.

As Nate argues, the poll is fairly manipulative in places. Still, it reminds us not to underestimate the extent of public ignorance -- much of it, if not all of it, generated by anti-reform propaganda. It is simply essential that proponents of reform, including the president, counter this propaganda with a concerted effort to educate the public about what exactly reform would mean, about what choices individuals would have, about what a new government-run alternative would offer.

Or is it already too late for that?

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