Pundits and politicians from both sides of the fence have been hollering themselves blue about a potential public health care option. Instead of relying on private insurers, the government would insure people itself. The idea is that if a government-run option were offered to compete with private insurers, it could help keep pricing in check and ensure quality.
Two of the three health care reform bills in Congress have a public option. What might a public option look like in practice? One way to find out is to look at what's already out there. About a third of Americans already get health care from a publicly administered program. From celebrated programs like the VA's or the military's, to the troubled ones like the Indian Health Services, here's a snapshot of how they actually work: