The other day, I overheard a random "Republican analyst" on MSNBC's The Ed Show suggest that the public option should never be implemented because of the DMV. This was her whole thing. The DMV. According to her logic, the DMV, which is run by state governments, is really slow and awful and therefore the public option would force us to wait in line for medical treatment.
My first reaction was that this lady has clearly never been to an emergency room. When I crashed while cycling last year, I waited in an ER exam room with a fractured T10 for nearly two hours before a doctor popped into the room. And I was pretty lucky to be seen so quickly. Contrastingly, I've never once waited in line at a DMV for any longer than 10 or 15 minutes in my entire life.
The last time I renewed my driver's license, it took less than five minutes. If I ever have the privilege of sitting in a doctor's office waiting room and, subsequently, the exam room, for less than five minutes I'll voluntarily pay triple the fee and send the doctor an enormous gift basket filled with, you know, a Lexus.
All in all, we can only wish that private healthcare was as efficient and speedy as the DMV.
But this DMV crap on a stick is only one of many crazy attacks against the president's healthcare reform agenda and the public option. Predictably, as healthcare reform grows larger in the window, the claims from the far-right are becoming increasingly bizarre and ridiculous, topping, in some cases, the psychotic claims of, say, the Obama birthers.
Political race-baiter (and, somehow, CNN contributor) Alex Castellanos wrote a memo for Republicans about how to attack the president's healthcare reform agenda. In it, he suggested that Republicans use the line: "The Obama Experiment with our health could change everything we like about our health care -- and our economy." Within hours, Michael Steele who, by the way, can't recall who his health insurance provider is, used the word "experiment" 30 times in a single speech. 30 times. Naturally, "experiment" is designed to scare you into believing the president will replace your doctor with, I don't know, Dr. Giggles who will steal your DNA in a nefarious attempt to clone a race of pig men.
In non-wingnut reality, of course, the public option would function similarly to Medicare, which is hardly a spooky or unfamiliar program, and I challenge anyone to produce a single human being who would willingly give up his or her Medicare coverage. More on Medicare presently.
Meanwhile, Sean Hannity and other Republicans are suggesting that, according the incomplete scoring of the Kennedy HELP healthcare bill, something like 20 million Americans would be stripped of their private health insurance policy and forced to accept the public option. Last week on his show, Hannity tried to pass this one off on guest Tom Arnold who managed to debunk many of Hannity's lies about healthcare reform to Hannity's face.
As Matthew Yglesias pointed out the day the partial CBO report was released, 10 million people would voluntarily leave their private insurer in favor of the HELP Committee's version of the public option. Hannity deliberately inflated the number to 20 million and overlooked how and why people would leave their private plans. But I don't think he expected Tom Arnold to be the one to call him on his lies.
And then there's Glenn Beck who, on his radio show Tuesday, said that healthcare reform is actually the president's attempt to legislate reparations for African Americans. I'm not making this up. Beck tried to conflate ACORN, healthcare reform and reparations into some sort of racist, conspiratorial wingnut cocktail.
Those of you who have seen Beck's television show are probably familiar with a regular bit called "In A Nutshell" in which he strings together various "villains" and, without evidence, forms all new conspiracy theories. It's like a googly-eyed, punch-me-face version of the Kevin Bacon game. Recently, for example, he claimed to have connected ACORN to Judge Sotomayor.
So I tried my hand at the Glenn Beck "In a Nutshell" game, and, without much effort, I was able to connect Glenn Beck with the tragic death of a little dog named "Snuggles". Here's how. Glenn Beck's radio show is carried by Premiere Radio Networks. The network also carries On Air with Ryan Seacrest. Ryan Seacrest took over hosting the American Top 40 which was previously hosted by (Lebanese evildoer) Casey Kasem. And Casey Kasem once had a meltdown while broadcasting a story about the death of a little dog named "Snuggles". Is Glenn Beck responsible for the death of "Snuggles"? Is Don on the phone?! You decide.
As I was researching the topic of crazy wingnut healthcare arguments, I thought perhaps Michele Bachmann would have an insane healthcare quote on the record for me to exploit and debunk. I was wrong. It turns out that Bachmann's most recent healthcare reform attack accidentally underscored the leading argument in favor of the public option.
Approximately 114 million Americans are expected to leave private health insurance. Why? Their employers will drop the insurance because the taxpayer-subsidized plan will be 30 to 40 percent cheaper.
Up to 40 percent cheaper? That's amazing. I've heard estimates of around 30 percent, but 40 percent is even better. Make sure to tell your Republican friends that The Michele Bachmann Unit says that the public option will be 40 percent less expensive than private health insurance.
As for the "114 million Americans" part, Bachmann is getting her information from a Lewin Group report (the Lewin Group, by the way, is wholly owned by UnitedHealth Group, a private insurance mega-corporation) that suggests all employers would eventually be allowed to provide their employees with the public option rather than more expensive, cost-prohibitive private insurance policies.
First, no one in the government would mandate this switch. Only business owners would pull the switch. Second, business owners wouldn't be able to specifically offer the public option alone but, instead, they could choose to buy into a Health Exchange, which would contain both private plans and the public option from which to choose. In other words, you would be able to select from either a Health Exchange private plan or the public option. And here I thought Republicans were in favor of allowing entrepreneurs to decide how to run their own businesses. I suppose the Republicans aren't so opposed to socialism after all.
But back to "40 percent cheaper." I ran some numbers today and came up with the following. I clicked over to one of those health insurance shopping websites, entered my family's information (family of three, non-smokers) and the top rated, best selling plan listed on the site for my family showed a $476 monthly premium with a $250 deductible, 10 percent co-insurance, and $20 doctor's visits.
A government plan that's 40 percent cheaper, as Bachmann noted, would cost around $286 per month -- a $190 discount. The government plan, though, wouldn't exclude us for preexisting conditions. It wouldn't randomly deny us coverage. It wouldn't conspire to cancel our coverage as soon as we got sick. It wouldn't jack up our premium for no reason. And we could take it with us wherever we go.
However, the public option would function similarly to Medicare which carries a $96 monthly premium per person for a married couple making less than $170,000 a year. There's a $135 deductible and a 20 percent co-insurance. (Incidentally, the absolute most expensive Medicare premium is $308 per person -- paid by couples earning a massive $500,000 a year.)
But the public option isn't just about the low premium, it's about the security. It's about knowing that you're paying into a system that will always be there.
No matter how the Republicans, Blue Dogs and the establishment media try to come at this thing, they're only really left with arguments that are easily shot down, arguments that inadvertently endorse the most positive aspects of healthcare reform, or arguments that are just insane. And that's mainly because the money being pumped into the effort to kill healthcare reform doesn't come along with a mandate for veracity or sanity in order for the checks to be cut. The private healthcare industry is buying whatever scares people. Whatever confounds the facts. Whatever kills healthcare reform and the public option by a thousand cuts. Whatever works.