There is much to be said for "the public option" in healthcare reform, though I suppose nobody has said it better or more convincingly than Paul Krugman recently did in the New York Times.
Still, I wonder if the real argument is not being made openly here. Perhaps the real question is... should corporations be making a profit on people's health in the first place?
The notion of a mandated system, where you have to buy in whether you like it or not, is analagous to the system of car insurance. Want to drive? Be responsible and insure yourself and your car. Don't want insurance? Take public transportation.
If we take note that this really only works because there *is* public transportation, we get the point. You can opt out because there is an option here.
You cannot decide not to "have health" or heath problems. Well, I guess you can, but suicide is still illegal. Since you have to deal with your health, then one cannot treat this like a personal choice (like, say, smoking). The need for a "public transportation" option in order to mandate car insurance is even more sharply needed for health care if we're going to mandate health insurance.
"...and that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"... includes life. Nobody is able to hold me up to their profit motive to ensure my liberty, why should they be able to in order for me to keep my life?
If life is a right, then health is a right. Let's get the profit motive out of it entirely. Let doctors and nurses and medical techs make a good living, certainly, but no market participation in this, the most basic human need.
People will say that the public option is just a step toward single payer. Maybe. Maybe a needed step.