Time for a New Game Plan

08/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The private insurance industry's latest talking point against the only way of ensuring affordable health care coverage for everyone, a robust public health insurance choice, is to accuse the government of trying to be a "player and a referee in the same game."

It's telling that the private insurance lobbyists see the health care crisis as a 'game.' It's not a game. Just ask Rhonda Robinson of Durham, N.C. who lost her job last year and has epilepsy. Her Cobra payments are more than she brings in each month as a consultant, yet she earns too much to qualify for Medicaid. That is what's called being in the gap. Rhonda is just one of many heartbreaking stories in the health care reform debate.

Of course, private insurance would like to keep the government on the sidelines and the field to themselves so they can continue to raise costs while delivering poor coverage that isn't there when you really need it. They want to keep running up the score by putting profits first, second and third--leaving hard working Americans in limbo and unable to keep up with escalating costs.

These are the kind of 'games' that the private insurance industry likes to play. In this 'game' however, lives are on the line, not a championship trophy.

It should come as no surprise the private insurance companies only want the parts of reform good for them, the millions of new customers. But they don't want to be kept honest by something good for all of us, a public insurance option. With 40 million new people coming into the system as a result of reform, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies alike would benefit. Health care in America must be a shared responsibility, and insurance companies need to face the reality that with the new customers they are going to have share the sacrifice and submit to some healthy competition.

During President Obama's health care town hall meeting last week, we saw Aetna CEO Ronald Williams whine about having to do his part to make reform work for everyone. The "No We Can't Coalition" is as strong as ever and shows not the lightest shame in opposing the results not only of the November elections, but the overwhelming sentiment of Americans who are looking for a public health insurance so that they can have the choice they deserve.

Take the North Carolina woman who stood up at a recent town hall meeting on Capitol Hill and told the story of her daughter becoming paralyzed and getting put out of the hospital after 3 weeks. Many of her daughter's treatments weren't covered. She demanded a public option. Senators ought to be listening to people like her, not the chants of special interest naysayers.

It's a matter of simple choice, and the private insurance industry is fighting hard for business as usual. The old game plan has gotten us where we are today. It's time for a new plan. True health care reform leaves no one uninsured. Through a public plan we can ensure everyone is covered and, at the same time, keep private insurance honest.

If Americans wake up after a health care reform bill passes and have no new choices, no public option for their families, they will know that after all the promises of change - it's the same old game in Washington.