Shopping for Health Care at the Thrift Store

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A group of conservative Democrats walk into a health care reform store...

Yes, unfortunately it is the beginning of a bad joke even though the issue is not a joking matter.

We've all done this at some point. You visit a store in search of an item that you need for a project, and upon arrival, you realize that what you need is more expensive than what you originally anticipated.

Consequently, you look around and find another option on sale; whether it's 20% off, buy one get one free or some other cost saving incentive that catches your attention. Only one problem -- you know this "for sale" item doesn't fit all of your needs. Maybe it's too small or inadequate for the task at hand. Even though it's not what you intended to buy, you settle for it because the price is right. Now you're home and it's too small or doesn't work. Your option is to either live with the inadequate item or return to the store and get what you really needed in the first place, which will then allow you to effectively complete the project.

As Senators and Representatives look over their health care reform options they find some that work better than others. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently offered Congress, via the Senate Finance Committee, a sale item. It seems to work, it's less expensive and covers more people than some of the other plans -- but it's missing some key ingredients -- the main one being a public option.

Without the public option, the truth is that we have a bill that might cost the government less, but costs consumers more. We are in this messy health care reform battle to improve the antiquated system and to reduce health care costs for consumers. In August, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan raised their rates 22%. Can you imagine living in Michigan and learning that you have to pay BCBS an additional 22% each month? The public option will create the competition needed to drive down the prices that private insurers charge.

Aside from the public option, there are other weak components to this bill. The pitch is that the Senate Finance Committee's bill will expand coverage to an additional 29 million Americans by 2019 by expanding Medicare coverage and also subsidizing private insurance for low- and middle-income Americans. That initially sounds great. However, we have to ask about the quality of that health care and also what this means to the average consumer; both those currently with and without coverage.

Health care reform is no joke. Whatever they bring home from the store, we'll have to live with.