Middle-of-the-road public option

It won't destroy the private health insurance industry OR the country

Far from radical, Obama’s push for a public option is a sensible, middle-of-the-road idea.

In a response to our last post, a reader makes the leap that the government would offer its public plan at “zero cost” putting a cataclysmic series of events into play that would destroy the private health insurance system and plunge the country into bankruptcy.

This is the kind of FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt – that opponents of health care reform are using to muddy the waters and prevent fixing a system that is clearly broken.

People opting for the public plan will pay premiums, just like people in private plans, and those premiums are what will cover  medical expenses of its members. The potential savings for those in a public plan will come from elimination of marketing, administrative costs and profit – items that add an estimated 20 to 40 percent to the cost of current insurance plans.

Obama’s call for tweaks to private insurance plans and the introduction of a public option, are very middle-of-the-road changes to a system that is seriously out of control.

A sign of that moderation is the criticism from the left that he should be pushing for a single-payer system that would truly gut the private system we have in place and replace it with a socialized system. It works well in most countries that have it, and has many proponents including the Physicians for a National Health Program.

Instead of radical change, Obama’s plan preserves the private insurance system while providing a public option that will compete toe-to-toe with it. The idea is that a public plan will pressure the private sector to become more efficient and keep its prices lower – that’s an idea that makes sense.

It’s amusing to note that many of the conservative members of Congress who oppose a public plan as being a death knell to private insurers are the same who always complain that the government can’t run anything efficiently. If that’s true, then they have nothing to fear from a public option.

When you hear claims that the public option will provide freeloaders with coverage, or take away your current insurance, or make you change doctors, or encourage abortions (?!?) and euthanize the elderly (?!?) – recognize such drivel for what it is: lies cut from whole cloth; distortions created by those with a vested financial interest in maintaining the status quo.

Obama’s moves are more evolution than revolution. Let’s ensure everyone has access to health care regardless of pre-existing conditions or employment status. The current system does not work, but we can tweak it so it will.

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