Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is claiming a public option in upcoming health care legislation is now a slam-dunk with the long-awaited seating of Al Franken of Minnesota. Across the aisle, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is saying a public option will succeed only with bipartisan support.
While we like bipartisan support as much as the next guy, Democrats should be cautious in giving away the farm. They are, for the first time in 30 years, a position of unique strength. If the Republicans were in their position, history demonstrates that they would be ruthless. However, Democrats often seem too eager to compromise — if one is to be charitable — or spineless, if one is being less so.
Single-payer the best, but not on the table
We think a majority of Americans would prefer a single-payer system if they understood what it was, and how well it works in the many modern societies such as France, the Scandinavian counties and yes, even Canada.
Insurance companies like to vilify these other countries, claiming long waiting lines and an impersonal government system. But the horror stories about American health care are far more scary … and have the added benefit of being real. If you talked to regular people in many of these other countries you’d find many more of them are happy with their system than we are with ours. They shake their heads in disbelief when they hear of American families going bankrupt because of medical bills — it simply never happens in these other countries, where health care is a right of citizenship. In France, doctors regularly make house calls. Americans flood the borders of Canada to enjoy its cheaper prescription prices.
But the United States is not going to get a single-payer system. The politicians using this as a straw man are being disingenuous as its not even on the table. It should be, but for political reasons (mainly insurance and drug industry lobbies) its not. The best we can hope for in this round is a public option for health care — a government run plan that can compete toe-to-toe with the plans of private insurance to, as President Obama puts it, “keep them honest.”
You’ll keep your doctor, current plan if you wish
This government plan would be completely voluntary. No one would be required to change their insurance company or doctor. And there’s nothing to say that you’d have to change doctors to enroll in a cheaper, government-run health care plan — most will likely accept their payment as readily as that from private companies. Another straw man being constructed by the for-profit medical industry.
Medicare’s administrative costs are in the low single digits. That of private insurance companies is around 30 percent, which means that out of every dollar of premium you page, a third of it goes for paper shuffling, commissions, CEO salaries and stockholder dividends. The largest savings of the public plan will be running it as a service and not a profit center.
Choosing a “Chuck” … we like Schumer
We like both Chucks — Schumer and Grassley, and they bring different nuances to a wide variety of issues, given their polar-opposite political philosophies. But on health care, its the Democrats that are spot-on … it needs to be a right of citizenship and not a protected industry. However, industry influence spreads money on both sides of the aisle, and the the Democrats will need a few fighters, despite their numbers, to get this through. Chuck Schumer will be a valuable one.
CALL TO ACTION: Call your Senators and congressional representative today, to support a public option in the health care reform package.You’ll find their contact information in the right-hand column on our advocacy page. Call even if you know they already support a public option — the grassroots are needed to counter the overpowering influence of money in politics.