Did Bill O'Reilly, conservative icon and outspoken critic of Obama's health reform plans--and most other things Obama--really say that he wants to see a public option? Speaking with Nina Owcharenko of the Heritage Foundation, O'Reilly appeared to endorse the idea. A public health care option to compete with private plans has long been a goal of liberal Democrats (even many moderate Dems oppose it), so supporting it would be quite a departure for O'Reilly. But it wouldn't be entirely unprecendented--O'Reilly was one of the first conservative pundits to turn against the Iraq war in 2004. Let's go to the tape:
Bill O'Reilly: The public option now is done. We've discussed this. It's not going to happen. But you say that this little marketplace that they're going to set up, whereby the federal government would subsidize some insurance for Americans, that is, in your opinion, a public option?
Nina Owcharenko: Well, it has massive new federal regulation. So you don't necessarily need a public option if the federal government is going to control and regulate the type of health insurance that Americans can buy.
O'Reilly: I want that. I want that. I want, not personally for me, but for working Americans to have an option that, if they don't like their health insurance, if it's too expensive, they can't afford it, if the government can cobble together a cheaper insurance policy that gives the same benefits, I see that as a plus for the folks.
Owcharenko: Well, I don't think that the bills yet have proven that they're going to save the American people any money.
O'Reilly: OK. Now, if that's true, if it's all a bunch of B.S., and nobody saves any money, absolutely I will oppose it. But I think Americans should put the ideology aside. If the government can come up with a marketplace where a bunch of insurance companies come together, to offer lower premiums, that's a good thing.
It's conceivable that O'Reilly was endorsing health care "exchanges," not a full-blown public option, as Alex Koppelman pointed out. "He may just be confused about it, though -- the exchange isn't really a way of subsidizing healthcare in the way he said," Koppelman wrote. "Either way, of course, O'Reilly did seem to be breaking with his colleagues, not to mention the right as a whole."