On Sunday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the so-called public option -- a government-run health care plan that would be just one component of a broader health care overhaul -- is "not the essential element."
Furthermore, on Fox News Sunday, Senator Kent Conrad said that the public option simply didn't have the votes to pass. Without the public option, the bill would look an awful lot like Romney Care in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, everyone was insured as well. Employers were mandated to provide coverage for their employees. Those that weren't working and couldn't afford insurance had it subsidized by the state government along with employers.
Now, the current bill, at least in the House, is much more complicated than that, but most key principles would now make ObamaCare and Romneycare indistinguishable. Those princples are these. In both, Medicare/Medicaid would be expanded. In both, employers would be mandated to provide coverage. In both, those without care would be fined. In both, the government would subsidize those that couldn't afford health care. It's also important to note that Romney Care is now bankrupting Massachusetts.
If Obama pulls out the public option, he will have no choice but to move the entire bill to the right and make it a center right bill. The reason for this is that removing the public option would peel off a significant portion of liberals in the Congress. Simply removing the public option won't get many Republicans on board.
By removing the public option the president would guarantee that the only bill that would pass would be one that would ally Republicans and moderate Democrats. Such a bill could pass though it would look nothing like the current bill.
Republicans are not going to stand for a bill that forces businesses to provide health insurance to their employees. They aren't going to stand for a bill that imposes penalties on those that choose not to get health insurance. Republicans also want tort reform and many Republicans want health insurance to be able to cross state lines. Republicans are also big supporters of Health Savings Accounts. I said earlier that the President would need to embrace a health care bill in the style of Bennet/Wyden if he wanted sweeping reform to pass. Removing the public option could be the first step toward that evolution. If he follows through and moderates the bill entirely, not only will he get sweeping health care reform, with bi partisan support, but he will pull off an impressive piece of political jujitsu. He will move from a coalition of liberals to a coalition of moderate and conservatives.