One of the most controversial elements of the reform scheme President-Elect Obama and leading Democrats are proposing is the creation of a new public insurance plan, modelled vaguely on Medicare, into which some or all Americans could enroll.

Liberals (this writer included) like the idea for several reasons, not least among them the fact that public insurance premiums don't have the same high overhead costs that private insurance plans do. But the idea is positively toxic to many industry groups--starting with the private insurers--and their conservative allies. So it's rather surprising--and rather significant--that USA Today just endorsed the idea in a staff editorial.

USA Today hardly qualifies as the liberal media; its editorial page, as far as I know, generally leans conservative. But on Thursday, the newspaper ran an editorial under the headline "Give consumers alterantive to private medical insurance," followed by the subheadline "Public plan could provide better service and benefits at lower cost."

You can read the full editorial here.

--Jonathan Cohn