Public Option Critical
The so called “public option” of President Obama’s health care makeover created a government-run public insurance option, similar to Medicare, to compete with private companies.
Insurance giants fought the option very publicly.
Backed by an ad campaign launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and its pro-industry, ResponsibleHealthReform.org, which represents large insurers, and unsubstantiated fears raised by some of “death panels,” the flash point for anger and opposition now has the President rethinking the public option.
Appearing on CNN, Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, said Sunday the public option was “not the essential element” for reform. She raised the idea of a nonprofit cooperative that could be considered in the Senate as an alternative to government run insurance program.
Appearing at a town hall meeting Saturday in Grand Junction, Colorado, Mr. Obama seemed to play down the significance of the public option, but others feel it is the key to reform.
Howard Dean, one time presidential candidate, former Vermont governor, and a medical doctor tells the CBS Early Show he is angry.
“There are too many people who understand, including the president himself, the public option is absolutely linked to reform. You can’t have reform without the public option. If you really want to fix the health-care system, you’ve got to give the public the choice of having such an option,” reports the New York Times.
Giving up the public option puts the president in the precarious position of angering Democrats while at the same time deflating the Republic argument of a government takeover of health care.
The Senate Finance Committee is expected to produce a bill with a proposed nonprofit co-operative, offering insurance, not unlike rural electric and agricultural co-ops, run by their members.
With the public option, the government would back a plan available to consumers through a health exchange giving individuals the ability to buy either public or private insurance, whichever best fits their needs. The private plans would be forced to become more competitive.
Has Big Insurance Won?
Business Week reports in its August 6 issue, “The Health Insurers Have Already Won.”
“The industry has already accomplished its main goal of at least curbing, and maybe blocking altogether, any new publically administered insurance program that could grab market share from the corporations that dominate the business...[It has] also achieved a secondary aim of constraining new benefits that become available to tens of millions of people who are currently uninsured. That will make the new customers more lucrative to the industry."
The Center for Media and Democracy reports the insurance industry has taken the playbook from the tobacco industry to scuttle the public health option.
In her column, Helen Thomas, dean of the White House Press corps, who has been on the job for more than 40 years writes:
"I covered the battle to create the Medicare system back in the 1960s. The cries of 'socialized medicine' worked for years until President Johnson rammed Medicare through Congress in 1965...
What kind of a nation are we if we do not provide everyone with the excellent medical care that only some of us now receive?”
The recent free health care events sponsored by the nonprofit group, Remote Area Medical (RAM), have drawn thousands of uninsured and underinsured around the country, which are estimated to be 47 million, underscoring the need for change. #