You'll be shocked to learn that Fred Hiatt opposes the public option. You'll be further shocked that his argument doesn't make much sense.
Hiatt's main concern is cost control. He thinks (maybe correctly) that Congress is punting on controlling costs. Instead, Hiatt wants Congress (1) to impose taxes on employer-provided health care benefits; and (2) to cede their power over Medicare reimbursement rates, etc. (For the record, the Baucus bill includes the latter -- along with many other promising cost-reducing measures).
Nothing crazy so far. But Hiatt goes off the rails when he tries to blame these cost problems on the public option itself. The logic, as I understand it, is that adopting the public option prevents Congress from taking "real" steps on cost controls.
I'm sorry, but this is just gratuitous swiping. For one, the public option would lower costs, particularly if it were expanded. Second, precisely zero of Hiatt's cost concerns would be addressed by removing the public option. All of the problems he cites will exist even if the public option gets scrapped tomorrow.
Now, maybe that's a reason to criticize Congress, but it's no reason to criticize the public option. These are just analytically distinct points. Congress is dragging its feet on cost-cutting because cost-cutting is politically treacherous. The public option has nothing to do with it.
The real story here is that Hiatt just really dislikes liberals. His argument, frankly, seems more motivated by animus than by policy concerns (note the swipe against unions).
Of course, DougJ at Balloon Juice says all this more succinctly than I could:
To summarize here’s shorter Hiatt/Samuelson: the public option may not fully address increases in health care costs, so we shouldn’t have one.
That pretty much sums it up.