The public option remains in the spotlight for now, as pundits and analysts go back and forth: “Is the public option doomed?” “Will Co-Ops replace the public option?” “Is health reform without a public option really reform at all?” To put it mildly, the public option is not something that people feel ambivalent towards. You either love it or hate it.
Opponents of reform clearly hate it, and they have been drawing comparisons between government involvement in health care and other services the government provides, such as the U.S. Postal Service and the various state departments of motor vehicles (DMV). Unless I’m missing something, their argument seems to be that, “Hey, the post office and the DMV are terrible, and you can expect the same horrible results from government involvement in health care.” That would be a pretty good argument if it were true.
In reality, people are actually quite pleased with the U.S. Postal Service, and at least one state DMV (New York) is providing exceptional customer service. How do I know this? From consumer polls that show that the postal service is the most highly regarded of all federal government programs.
In fact, 58% of respondents had a very favorable view of the postal service, and another 31% had a somewhat favorable view. That’s 89% compared to the next highest ranking program–the FBI–with 77%. Given the 3.1% margin of error, the difference is statistically significant by at least 6 percentage points. The Supreme Court, the Department of Defense, and other entities are well below this. Notably, respondents weren’t asked about their view of the Department of Health and Human Services more generally, or of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. I would like to see those numbers.
The bottom line is this: If opponents of reform want to criticize the public option by making comparisons to other government-run programs, they shouldn’t use the postal service or the DMV (at least not in New York) as an example, because it appears that most people are actually quite pleased with them. Then again, ideological arguments don’t rely on facts nearly as much as they rely on anecdotes.