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Miles J. Zaremski Headshot

Obama Selling Out --"Say It Ain't So 'Joe' "

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In the latest news cycles, including as reported by bloggers on Huffington Post, the President will be backing off of support for a public health insurance option. If Obama does this, or downplays this item, in his speech to a joint session of Congress next week, he will have become just another, run-of-the-mill President who says one thing to capture votes and then makes a switcheroo. "Say it ain't so 'Joe' ".

The sine qua non of Obama's candidacy was not only "change", but believability. He also represented on the campaign trail a beacon of hope (remember that word) that attracted millions of supporters and converts from the ways of the last eight years. Now, without a public option as part of his health care reform package, he has turned himself into a political pariah that no one will be able to believe or trust. Pandering to one's opponents who don't want health care reform in the first place is disgusting. How sad and shameful!

Let's back up a bit. Why was there a call for a public option in the first instance? In two words: affordability and accessibility to the health care system for all Americans. Because if there are no constraints on entities insuring the public for health care services and treatment, what the insurance industry would be charging consumers will go unchecked. How simple to understand, huh? The public option is intended to provide an option (read my lips again, an "option") so that if consumers did not want what the private market offered, including cost, a public option would be available. Now, no doubt the majority of us want more insurance regulation, like eliminating pre-existing condition restrictions and ceilings on coverage, capping out of pocket expenses,and precluding rescission from coverage after medical care and treatment has been provided. Great. Dandy. Fine. If I were an insurance company executive, I would be licking my chops right now, knowing that there would not be a public option. Why you ask? Well, imposing additional regulations on my industry means we have additional exposure. Additional exposure costs the industry lots more money. If these exposures takes away from my bottom line because I may have to pay out more dollars in coverage, either I lose the profits I am making now (my shareholders would not like that) or I need to raise more revenues.

The only way to do this is by . . . raising what I charge Americans who want and need health care coverage. Without a public option in place to keep these premiums in check, all of America will be back at square one: the cost of health care and health care coverage (which are intertwined) will continue to rise, millions more Americans will be without insurance than presently exists, and the purpose of health care reform -- to provide accessibility and affordability -- will no longer exist . How awful a scenario. But this is what will occur, Mr. President, if you back off of a public option.

Another point about the public option. Don't be scared when you hear that the public option should be cast aside since the government will interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. The Supreme Court tells us in three cases it has decided since 2000 that the private market already does that. Have your legal staff check out the cases in Pegram v. Herdrich, Aetna v. Davila, and Cigna v. Calad. So, the public option will have the reverse effect of what goes on already.

In the end Mr. President, ask yourself, what is more important, my political future, or doing what my gut has been telling me to do since I said last October when I debated Senator McCain in Nashville: that health care was a right for all Americans, and not a privilege or a responsibility. In the end Mr. President, do you want to pander to the political right, crawl on your knees, beg for mercy -- that type of thing, or stand for principles you have been advocating since you wanted to become our nation's leader? You remember that Indiana Jones movie where they were looking for the golden cup in biblical times. One who chose unwisely turned to dust. Hopefully, you will not do the same by not supporting a public option.