In American-style football, a quarterback who "runs the option" receives the ball, runs either right or left (accompanied by another offensive player), and, depending on the opposing defense's strategy, either laterals the ball to his accompanying player to avoid a tackle or keeps the ball and advances it himself. Not all quarterbacks can pull this off, but when executed effectively, the "option run" is a useful tool in the QB's arsenal.
It isn't hard to draw a parallel between football and the health care debate raging in Washington. As House and Senate leaders hammer out health care reform legislation for floor debate in their respective chambers, the decision of whether to include a public option (in which the federal government creates a public health insurance plan financed by premiums to compete against private plans) has taken center stage.
What is unclear, however, is who is calling the shots. Is it President Obama? Is it Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid? Is it the House Democratic leadership? Is it the moderates who want to support health care reform but are wary of taking votes that they find hard to justify to finger-wagging constituents at raucous town hall meetings? Or is it the American people themselves?
And which public option (if any) will prevail? A "robust" public option, as championed by the House majority leadership? One that allows states to "opt out," as Senator Reid has advocated? One that contains some sort of "trigger," as Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has said she could support? Will the House and Senate approach the public option the same way, or vote on different versions?
Word on the field is that the bills will soon be introduced and debated by each chamber. But until the game is over, it is hard to predict the winners and losers.