The Blue Dogs have been surveying their membership over the last several days; coalition co-chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) has been collecting the responses. She listed the four top priorities that have emerged: Keeping the cost under $900 billion, not moving at a faster pace than the Senate, getting a 20-year cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office and addressing regional disparities in Medicare reimbursement rates.It appears the rank and file Blue Dogs don't really think opposing a public option should be a top concern of their caucus. This seems to be in conflict with the Blue Dogs' health care task force chairman Mike Ross's firm opposition to any bill with a public option. Given the incredible cost saving potential of a robust public option, it might be getting hard to reconcile their claims of fiscal conservatism with opposition to a public option. It could also be that they have look at the public option's strong poll numbers in their districts and are having second thoughts.
So, the Huffington Post asked, the public option is not a top priority?
"Right, the group is somewhat split," she said.
There still seems to be concerns about a robust public option tied to Medicare rates, because most Blue Dogs represent rural districts. Rural areas tend to have slightly lower Medicare reimbursement rates. If this issue is really a sticking point may I offer a modest solution. In areas where the Medicare reimbursement for a procedure is less than the national average, have the public option's reimbursement rate tied to the Medicare national average (not the local Medicare rate) for that procedure.