I'm not a healthcare wonk. Of course, I want the 46 million uninsured Americans to get coverage, but they have not been my primary concern in healthcare reform (even though I have been among the uninsured many times in my life). I have to admit I'm being a bit selfish here because I mainly want to have less expensive health insurance that still gives me decent coverage.
Why? Because these healthcare costs are killing us. It significantly impacts our family's life. We're just like everyone else, getting crushed under these bills. And what drives me crazy is that after paying more than any other country in the world, we get the 37th best coverage. That's unacceptable. We need to change this system.
This is why I'm in favor of the public option. I need lower bills. Republicans are saying that the public option is unacceptable because it will be too cheap and too efficient, so private companies cannot keep up with it. Great!
Frankly, I don't give a damn what happens to private insurance companies, I just want less expensive coverage that does the same job (or better). And that's what the Republicans are telling me is going to happen.
Mitch McConnell literally said this weekend on Fox, "The private insurance people will not be able to compete with a government option." Doesn't this prove that the private insurance companies will not be able to do as good a job as the government? Then step aside, Butch.
Here are four indisputable reasons why the public option must be part of the healthcare proposal:
1. The government doesn't have to advertise. No marketing budget means less costs to pass down to the consumer.
2. The government will not take a profit. That is about 10-30% of costs wiped out immediately. Private companies by their nature will add a certain percentage to the product for their own profit. That comes directly out of our pocket. An option that doesn't take profit also doesn't take as much money from us.
3. The government will have enormous negotiating leverage with drug companies and health care providers, so they can drive down the costs to the consumer even more.
4. It is an option! If it turns out that the government option does not work as well or costs more, no problem, just use the private insurance you have now. This is only an option you have in a more competitive market. Who can argue with that?
There are legitimate concerns that progressives have with the public option. It is not single payer. The government does not pick up the tab. You still have to pay a premium and the current system is largely maintained. But I think this is better than single payer. It gives us a choice and allows the market to dictate which system works better in the healthcare industry - public or private.
If in the end, more people choose the public option, then obviously it worked. If they don't, we've lost nothing because they can still get private insurance.
Another important point to remember is that the doctors, drug companies and medical providers are still private entities. They can compete with one another for more business by producing better products or making them cheaper. The base of healthcare services is still the same. It's just how you pay for it that would change a little.
And no one is getting between you and your doctor (unless it's your current provider who won't let you go out of network). You can pick any doctor you like under the public option; you just pay him from your public insurance rather than your private insurance. And it costs less. So, where's the harm?
Well, some would argue that the costs of the public option might be more than we realize. For example, the government will cover pre-existing conditions, and that could add to the costs of the plan. No problem, if you can find a better private plan, take it! If you want to add on to the coverage the public plan gives you, do it! Nobody is stopping you from getting more or different coverage from a private insurance company.
Plus, there are even more savings that are likely from the public option because the government has proven to be more efficient in how they run healthcare insurance policies. Medicare has 2% in overhead, while the average private insurance plan has about 10-25% of their costs in overhead. That's an enormous difference. But even if you think the government can't run an enterprise as efficiently (though the evidence clearly shows otherwise), you would be hard pressed to think they couldn't at least cut costs significantly because of the first three reasons stated above.
So, given all of this, it is absolutely clear that the public option must be included in any real healthcare reform plan that comes out of Congress. Otherwise, it's a joke and the lobbyists have won again. The public option is the whole enchilada here. Politicians who talk about compromising on it have no policy ground to stand on. They are simply doing the bidding of their benefactors, large healthcare corporations who feed their campaign coffers. Don't believe any sweet talk about necessary compromises. It is a deception meant to kill the heart of the bill.
It must be the public option or bust. There will be many things to negotiate in the final bill, but this cannot be one of them. Otherwise, there will be no real reform.