Sorry, Republicans: The CBO Hasn't Given the Public Plan a Price Tag Yet


Republicans who oppose the government-run "public option" in health insurance, including Ohio Rep. John Boehner and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have been repeating that it's a bad idea because the Congressional Budget Office has slapped it with a high price tag. But although the CBO did score drafts of two health reform bills recently, neither included a public plan for scoring. That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of reasons to be skeptical of a public option: It could end up creating a bloated, government-backed health-care monopsony that blunts medical innovation by sticking to stingy provider payments; or it might end up unwieldy and fantastically expensive if cost-control measures fail and political pressures force it to shell out for any and every imaginable procedure. Over the long run, it's very likely that it would significantly reduce competition amongst insurers. So wariness about the public plan is warranted, but opponents need to be careful not to pull the CBO over to their side before it's actually weighed in.