Will the Public Plan Make or Break Health Reform?

To the leaders of the Republican Party, a public health-care insurance option is a “non-starter,” the first step on a slippery slope to socialized medicine; in the eyes of the American Medical Association , it could “restrict patient choice”; and for President Barack Obama, as he put it Monday during his speech to the AMA in Chicago, it’s an essential part of any health care reform package that will “put affordable health care within reach for millions of Americans.” With all the hand wringing over a public plan, you could be excused for thinking there is already a specific plan on the table. There is not. But that hasn’t stopped House and Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle from turning a public plan into one of the most contentious issues being debated inside the Beltway, one that could potentially make or break the passage of landmark health care reform this year