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Miles J. Zaremski Headshot

The Other Health Care Option

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The purpose of what is termed "the public option" is to enable the American public to afford health care insurance through competition. Opponents say the it will destroy the insurance industry, or that it will lead to a government take-over of health care, or socialism, or any number of other results that are false, untrue and pure chicanery. Democrats in recent days have talked about getting a health care bill passed and then work on improving it over the years, like what occurred with social security starting in 1935, or with Medicare after it was passed in 1965. Presently, the public option in the Senate bill is a weak one, and talk persists of watering it down further. But is there an alternative to not having a public option? Yes there is!

Recall that a turtle does not move forward unless it sticks its neck out. Also recall that nothing gets accomplished except through compromise. So, how do we eliminate the creation of a government-run program yet provide millions of Americans with the ability to afford health care coverage? Take some risk through compromise. Here's how.

In return for insurers obtaining 40 million more customers through the mandate in either bills that all Americans must have health care insurance, and in return for any bill that is passed into law not becoming effective for three or four years, either (1) freeze any premium increases for the period of time from the date the bill is passed into law until its effective date, or (2) roll back the amount of premiums paid for an equal number of years as it takes for the bill to become effective. As an example of the latter, if it takes three years for a bill to go into effect once signed into law, then upon passage of the bill, premiums charged Americans would be scaled back to amounts that were in effect three years ago and stay at that level until the effective date of the bill. In this way, Americans get immediate relief and insurers will get millions of customers they never had before, which means billions more in revenues for them once the bill becomes effective. This becomes a win-win situation for the insurance industry and the consuming public. Present government programs remain untouched by this compromise.

Upon the effective date of the bill, premium charges on an on-going basis would then be tied to some index, like the Consumer Price Index, with a cap per policy year.

This plan would also cover not the 4 to 6 million Americans as would what is contained in either of the pending House or Senate bills, but, for starters, all Americans either not employed by companies with 100 or more employees or those already covered by a government program, notably Medicare or Medicaid. This plan would in other words cover about 80 million folks.

This suggested alternative to a public option shows how a public option can be created without becoming a public option. The goal of affordability (for health care coverage) is the same as a public option; just the means to get there is changed.

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