Yes, you read that right. The Huffington Puffington Post, the go-to news site for good liberals, says the public option, the foot in the door for single-payer socialized medicine that good liberals crave, maybe isn’t so crucial after all. Health economist  Zack Cooper writes:

The public option has taken on a mythical status. For many people, health care reform will be deemed a failure if the President signs legislation without a public option. That’s problematic.

It’s understandable why the public option has become the focal point of health care reform. The health care reform bill that came out of the House was 2,074 pages long! A public option is an easy reference for anyone who doesn’t have three spare days to read the bill in full. A public option is easy to identify, it has a nifty title and it’s intuitively likable. And, the public option was a gesture of good faith from policy-makers that paid homage to those who wanted a single-payer system like the British National Health Service.

The problem with elevating the public option to mythic proportions is that we are putting stock in a symbolic policy that never had a stable definition or a clear purpose. A public option became everything to everyone. At various points in the last year, the public option ranged from being defined as a choice of Medicare for all, to a non-profit insurer that was steered by the health secretary, to limited government run insurance plans that were to be run by each state.

Commentators highlighted polling that said that the majority of Americans favored a public option, but the polls never defined what the public option that they were referring to actually was. Because politicians knew having a public option was important to voters, they sought out ways that they could honestly say they had a public option in their bill, even if it meant overlooking other necessary aspects of reform. As a result, we got watered down public options, we got talk of triggers, we got state opt outs and we haven’t seen enough progress on the issues that matter like reforming the way health care is delivered, making the insurance industry more competitive and putting in place tough regulations on insurers.

Mind you, Cooper is no conservative. His ideas for healthcare reform include the usual liberal ideas of taxing high-benefits health plans (nota bene, you Dems over at the AFL-CIO), heavily regulating the insurance industry, coverage mandates galore, and answerable-to-no-one “death panels” that would strictly limit Medicare reimbursements. But it’s interesting to see a liberal admit that the public option may not be so important after all.

Fun bonus: Reading all the screeds and screams of Dem betrayal from die-hard progressives in the comments section following Cooper’s piece.