Public Option – Red Hering

By Michael Haughey, October 26, 2009

Beware the Public Option – it is a Red Hering.  The purpose is to convince us that we are getting meaningful reform.  It is a Red Hering that will distract us from real reform.  Remember – Insurance is the problem, therefore a “Public Option” for insurance leaves unresolved the primary problem.  It won’t seriously reduce cost or provide health care for all.  In short, it will give us a program that will disappoint anyone with expectations of “change we can believe in”.  The insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies will then proclaim – with their million-dollar-a-day advertising campaigns – that the “public option” is a failure and convince the weak-kneed politicians to go back to the old system – obscene profit for all insurance and pharmaceutical companies.


In a single-payer system there is still the option to buy additional non-profit health insurance.  That is the case in all countries with a single payer or universal health care system.  If you are uncomfortable with the single-payer system, you can thus add some insurance coverage. 


In order to significantly reduce costs (by 30% and more) and provide significant improvement in health care delivery, two things are paramount.  First, the cost of insurance bureaucracy and excessive profits must be eliminated from basic health care.  That is the cost part.  Second, health care decisions must be taken out of the hands of bureaucrats and accountants and over-paid executives and put back into the hands of health care professionals.  The public options do neither.  They promise cost reduction by “healthy competition”, while requiring everyone to buy health insurance – thus handing over 40 million new customers to the health insurance industry.  That is a Red Hering – surely written by the health insurance lobbyists.  They promise no “prior condition exclusions”, yet do nothing to limit how much insurance companies can charge in premiums for persons with “prior conditions”.  Again – a Red Hering surely written by the health insurance lobbyists.


The biggest Red Hering is the fake debate over cost containment – the claim that they need to meet the President’s maximum cost of $900 billion.  They prey on the public fear of taxes by focusing on avoiding tax increases to “pay” for the “public option”.  They thereby avoid the discussion of the real solution – a single payer system that eliminates insurance payments and replaces them with taxpayer funded payments that leave all the insurance bureaucracy and excessive executive payments eliminated – for a likely savings of over 30%.  Anyone who passed high school math should be able to figure out that if you subtract your and your employers health insurance payments and then add in taxes that are 30% less – the result is a 30% savings.  How stupid do they think we are?


Finally – don’t believe the lies about single-payer not being politically realistic.  That is politician-speak for what they really fear – they are afraid of losing their substantial health industry lobbyist campaign donations.  The more they say it is “politically unrealistic”, the more we know they are afraid because it really is possible.


What to do?  A few things come to mind, and others have many more ideas.  First – insist on a public debate in Congress of Single Payer.  Make them discuss it in full view of the American public.  Then make them vote and go on record for or against Single Payer.  Any who vote against it – vote them out next election.  Similarly, lets force a debate on finally getting money out of politics and don’t let up until it happens.  The government belongs to the people, and the people should pay for it – not the lobbyists.  All funding of government, especially elections, by we the people.  All of it – and all of it completely transparent (in the open).  How to get there?  One way to start is to vote for candidates not yet bought out by the lobbyists.  Right now they are mostly in 3rd parties.  You know – the ones you’ve never heard of because they have no money.  But there are a few in the major political parties who have kept their ethics at a high level and worked for their true constituents (instead of the lobbyists interests).  Dennis Kucinich and Bernie sanders come to mind, and I’m sure there are a few others.


Again – beware of Red Herrings and gimmicks.  Term limits are interestingly most supported by the party not in the majority, and then lengthening (extension) of term limits supported by the same folks when they do have a majority.  If it sounds too easy – too good to be true – it probably is.  There are no simple solutions like term limits.  We must learn about our candidates – do the hard work, make them answer questions and call them on it when they weasel. 


Finally, make our voices heard.  Phone calls to congress-persons, letters, e-mails, letters to the editor, start your own web site (like this one), demonstrations – do all you can in your own way.


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