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Published: Thursday, 10/29/2009

Public it is

GOVERNMENT-backed health insurance - the so-called public option - has been an on-again, off-again proposition as reform legislation has worked its way through Congress. Now it may be on again, thanks to a proposal that would allow states to opt out of the public option. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada this week announced his support.

Did we say public option? Some Democrats, thankfully not Senator Reid, seem to be running away from the name. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared at a Florida senior center on Monday, she called the public option "the consumer option." And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who appeared with Ms. Pelosi, used the term "competitive option."

According to an Associated Press story, both lawmakers suggested that new terminology might get them past any lingering doubts held by the American people.

"You'll hear everyone say, 'There's got to be a better name for this,'•" Ms. Pelosi said. "When people think of the public option, public is being misrepresented, that this is being paid for with their public dollars."

In a marketing age when new names are constantly suggested to better promote an issue, it is understandable that Ms. Pelosi and others frustrated by the bitter opposition might want to do a rewrite. But this is a silly exercise.

For one thing, it's probably too late to sell a new name. For another, the public option carries no negative connotation to reasonable and fair-minded people, and it shouldn't be repudiated by its backers. After all, it is the public who will benefit if it is included in the final bill.

While a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, there's no point in trying to placate critics who will call it socialism no matter what the monicker.

So call it the public option - with no apologies and no regrets.

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