Friday, August 28, 2009

The Public Option

It's been a downer week, bottoming out, of course, with the loss of Ted Kennedy. Perhaps his death will give new impetus within the Congress to health care reform, but I doubt it. Rather, one hopes that it will reenergize progressives into standing up to the bullies and demanding real reform. To this progressive, real reform is impossible without the widely misunderstood public option.

The public option is not:
  • single-payer health care as in Canada
  • government-supplied health care as in Great Britain
  • a welfare program for those unable to afford private insurance
  • (regrettably) "socialized" medicine in any way, shape, or form
The public option is an alternative to purchasing private health insurance. With a public option, people have the option of purchasing insurance from the federal government at market rates. The insurance industry opposes the public option because they are a cabal seeking to protect what amounts to a monopoly. Rather than offer competitive choice, they oppose it. A public option would threaten such insidious practices as recission, denying requests for expensive procedures, refusal to cover preexisting conditions, and outright denial of coverage.

Make no mistake about it: If you have private insurance that you have purchased yourself or are covered through a small business, you are in effect underinsured. Insurance companies think nothing of taking your money for years, then denying coverage due to technicalities (recission), on the basis of "experimental" (new) procedures, or raising rates on a small business until they are forced to drop coverage.

As Nicholas Kristof points out in today's must-read column,
The insurers are open to one kind of reform — universal coverage through mandates and subsidies, so as to give them more customers and more profits. But they don't want the reforms that will most help patients, such as a public insurance option, enforced competition and tighter regulation...
Remember the three essentials of health care reform: A public option, enforced competition, tighter regulation. When someone tells you that they are for reform but against Obamacare, ask them what reforms they support, why they are adequate, and how they achieve the goals of the three essentials...

Get out your handkerchiefs:

Friday's Choice: Paul Sanchez sings "The Foot Of Canal Street" at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (more on this great song here):


Roy said...

Interesting that you posted this today. I subscribe to Robert Reich's blog, and today's entry specifically addresses the public option as well; basically, he says the "insider's scoop" that the public option is dead is really just a rumor being spread by the insurance industry. Independent, public surveys are showing Americans are generally in favor of the public option; if Congress would only get a backbone this would no longer be an issue.

BTW, several groups leading the charge on keeping the public option in the health care package are pretty much saying it loud, and printing it in 86 point headlines: "Healthcare reform without the public option isn't reform at all."

sussah said...

K., I especially appreciate your link to my post today. thanks for thinking of us, sp, n.o.

RobinB said...

I like the idea (actually I hate it!) that if you're insured you're essentially underinsured--witness T and Reilly's adventures in Regence Hell last week.

I love our CoOp (Group Health) and tho it's expensive I know the costs are being kept down because it's both insurer and provider. My hope is the premiums will go down as more join.

Worried seniors on Medicare inflamed by the AARP need to take on board the fact that their children need the same protections they are guaranteed and that Obama's plan will strengthen NOT cut Medicare.

As he puts it, Insurance Reform + Public Option = Belt and Suspenders.

Finally, none of this will be free of costs--health care reform will be paid for by: 1. reallocating the dollars saved on insurance companies and the peace dividend from the Iraq War, 2. incentivizing hospitals to save money rather than spend it on unnecessary procedures and 3. taxing, yes, taxing those who make more than 250,000.00 a year.

Sorry to go on for so long--thanks for the forum!

T. Clear said...

Great post, Citizen K., as always. And you know I couldn't agree more -- both with you and with the comments.

Kathy said...

Good job of clearing up the confusion surrounding the "public option." I think some of the low polling on the subject reflects people's confusion over the whole issue. Of course, Republicans like confusion since they lose when real facts are presented.