The Center for Americna Progress hosted a conference call yesterday on health care with Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). The very first question on the call, from PoliticsDaily’s Jill Lawrence, was about the “public option” preferred by progressive groups like CAP and big labor.

Baucus parsed his statement carefully, first saying that “everything is on the table” and “we’re all in this together” but then moving to the public option Baucus admitted that it was “a little off to the side of the table.”

This is great news for the American people. As Heritage fellow Stuart Butler has detailed, including a public option in health care reform will inevitably lead to single payer government run health care:

In the public plan scenario, the federal government would create broad rules for the “game” in which plans would compete. But the government would not just be a neutral umpire in the game. It would also own one of the competing teams, namely the public plan.

Imagine the Washington Nationals made it to the World Series (I know! But just imagine it.) and were facing off against the New York Yankees. And imagine that in this series, the umpires were hired and paid by George Steinbrenner. Somehow I don’t think anyone other than a few die-hard Yankees fans could claim with a straight face that we’d have a fair series on a level playing field.

After all, the series outcome would hinge entirely on his employees’ decisions. And it would be King George’s men who decide how to interpret the rules and make the call on whether the ball lands fair or foul, the pitch is a ball or a strike, the batter checked his swing, the throw beat the runner, etc.

It’s equally impossible to believe that Congress and the administration could resist setting rules in a competitive health system – and interpreting those rules – so that their own public plan ended up winning the whole game. That’s why many supporters of a single-payer system, where the government runs the whole health system, are suddenly converts to choice and private competition, as long as there is a public plan.

If you don’t believe that government run health care advocates view the public option as a first step toward single payer, then watch Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) admit it: