Sunday, November 1, 2009
Here, in four paragraphs, is a distilled sample of the explanation for the AP's fall from its lofty status as the world's preeminent news agency:
WASHINGTON (AP) - What's all the fuss about? After all the noise over Democrats' push for a government insurance plan to compete with private carriers, coverage numbers are finally in: Two percent.
That's the estimated share of Americans younger than 65 who'd sign up for the public option plan under the health care bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is steering toward House approval.
The underwhelming statistic is raising questions about whether the government plan will be the iron-fisted competitor that private insurers warn will shut them down or a niche operator that becomes a haven for patients with health insurance horror stories.
Some experts are wondering if lawmakers have wasted too much time arguing about the public plan, giving short shrift to basics such as ensuring that new coverage will be affordable.
The number of people who would be covered initially by a puublic option has nothing to do with opposition to it.
Those who are opposed to a public option see it as a stalking horse for total government control of health care. A public option plan wold have no need to earn a profit. In fact, government could subsidize a public option, allowing it to undercut competitors and drive them out of business.
A public option that initially covers just 2 percent of Americans could eventually cover 100 percen. At that point, total government control will have been effected.
Whether the AP would notice, or not, remains to be determined.