Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Option to The Public Option?

The recent deal on the public health insurance option is making my head spin.
According to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, a tentative agreement among Senate Democrats would sideline but not kill the public option supported by liberal Democrats in Congress as a way to create competition for the private insurance companies and drive down costs.

Under this agreement, people ages 55 to 64 could “buy in” to the Medicare program that is currently the only single-payer health care system available to Americans. A federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management, would negotiate with insurance companies to offer national health benefit plans that resemble plans offered to federal employees, including members of Congress. Should these private plans fail to meet "certain goals" for making affordable coverage available to all Americans, Senate Democratic aides said, then the government itself would offer a new insurance plan similar to the public option.
So the public option is itself an option now.
Many liberals, along with a majority of Americans who want and would likely use the public option, probably won't like this idea, as it only expands the scope of private insurance companies and makes it no less complicated to buy health insurance than it already is. One skeptic is Senator Russell Feingold. “I do not support proposals that would replace the public option in the bill with a purely private approach,” the Wisconsin Democrat said. “We need to have some competition for the insurance industry to keep rates down and save taxpayer dollars.”
This deal, however, is likely the bet we can expect in these United States. For the U.S. remains a country guided by the principles of private enterprise. To the politicians, lobbyists, and moneyed interests who actually run the country, anything "public" smacks as an impingement on personal freedom, be it public broadcasting, public transportation, or public medical insurance. Lost on these people are the popularity of such programs (in the case of public medical insurance, I refer to Medicare), and the recent polls supporting a public option bear that out. Some Republicans are aware of the popularity of such proposals, and do their best to quash them, lest the Democrats gain an upper hand by actually passing them. Opponents of progress are very good at this. They've talked Americans out of health care reform before, and they are likely to find a way to stop even this modest (very modest) Senate deal from advancing.
Will i support this? I suppose I'll have to. Something has to get through. But bear this in mind: The bill approved last month by the House of Representatives calls for a government-run health plan. This won't be the last we hear of it.

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