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D. Brad Wright Headshot

Let's Make a Deal!

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Thanks to the Game Show Network, even folks who weren't around when it aired in the sixties and seventies can enjoy the Monty Hall classic Let's Make a Deal. It really was a great deal of fun, with people coming to the show dressed up, and Monty making offers of cash to people in the audience who had some unusual object on their person. But the real fun came with the deal making "trades" wherein Monty would invite a show participant to decide between keeping the cash he had just given them or choosing to trade it in, in exchange for whatever lay behind door number one, two, or three. The catch is that they had to pick the door blindly -- not knowing if they were making a good deal or a bad deal. Most of the fun is in watching the contestants struggle with the options presented to them and having very little -- to no -- information on what those options meant.

In many ways, the show operates much like our current U.S. health care system. Of course, we don't really have the range of health care options that Deal contestants have doors to choose from, but the lack of information is eerily analogous. Fortunately, health reform's out to change that for the better, by requiring insurers to become more transparent about the benefits they offer. That's much like making the items behind doors one, two, and three visible. It takes the guesswork out of selecting the best option. But there's a catch. Most people are not in any position to get to choose between the doors when it comes to their benefits. Instead, they get what their employer offers them -- if they offer them anything at all.

That's where another important part of health reform comes in: the public option. The public option -- done right -- would be available to everyone and would basically mean that everyone always had something to fall back on. It's the health insurance equivalent of the money Monty Hall hands out to contestants before asking them to make a deal. Now, combine that with transparency of the doors, and people have a clear choice to make: keep what's in their hand, or trade it in for one of the other known options before them?

The even better part? Unlike Monty's one-and-done deals, Americans would be able to return to the public option if they found that they were unhappy with their choice. In fact, they'd always have the public option with them, wherever they went, and whatever insurance options their employer does or does not offer. In fact, a single national plan, available to everyone does far more than HIPAA could ever do to make insurance coverage a portable good that follows the individual -- across jobs and across state lines.

This is precisely why Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is such a huge proponent of making the public option available to everyone. Not to mention that it works better to foster competition if there are no barriers to who can choose it over the private options. I agree with his point of view and think that a wide-open public option is a deal worth making.

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