THE BLOG
07/18/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

"My Face Was Ripped Off" and Other Arguments for a Public Option

The other day I was watching Hardball and Chris Matthews introduced one of his regular panels composed of that hairless former McCain staffer and the sad-eyed "Democratic strategist" Steve McMahon. Matthews ballyhooed that the panel would be debating healthcare and, remarkably, that McMahon has "clients involved in the healthcare debate."

Clients in the healthcare debate, eh? Okay, that could mean anything. McMahon owns a media consulting firm and he used to work for Al Gore, Howard Dean and Senator Kennedy, so he could be one of us and therefore he might use this panel to debunk some of the ridiculous lies floating around the president's public option plan.

He didn't.

McMahon not only came out against passing a government-run public health insurance option, but claimed that the president should go for 80 votes in the Senate with a "compromise" healthcare bill. It gets worse. McMahon implied that the public option is a "controversial" idea from the left, so 80 votes and no public option, he claimed, would make "everyone happy."

That's rich. Everyone happy, McMahon?

More on "making everyone happy" presently, but first I want to address this line about how the public option is a controversial, left-wing measure. Naturally, the Republicans, along with private health insurers and the cowardly Blue Dogs agree with McMahon -- they want to scare you and your representatives into believing that the public option is some sort of wicked controversial third rail. It'll be, as McMahon called it, "a great big fight" so it ought to be avoided. Ballsy! They're trying to pass this off as somehow a left-wing moonbat idea totally divorced from the mainstream. You know the trick: if they can marginalize it, they can kill it.

But of course this "controversial left" meme is completely and totally a lie. Fact: The public option enjoys incontrovertible, super-majority support across all demographic sectors. How do we know this? A poll from Consumer Reports:

...66 percent of Americans support having the option of a public health insurance plan as part of health care reform. [...] A clear majority across all demographic sectors supported creating a public plan.

I don't see a lot of gray area in the words "a clear majority across all demographic sectors." But wait. There's more.

Lake Research:

73% of voters want everyone to have a choice of private health insurance or a public health insurance plan while only 15% want everyone to have private insurance. [...] What's more, the preference for a choice of a public or private plan appeals to everyone -- Republicans (63%), Democrats (77%) and Independents (79%).

63 percent. Of Republicans. Support the public option. IEEEE! Avoid! Avoid!

Do I need to go on?

The Kaiser Family Foundation:

...about two-thirds (67%) of U.S. residents "strongly" or "somewhat" favor establishing a public health insurance option "similar to Medicare," with about 80% of Democrats, 60% of independents and 49% of Republicans in favor of such a plan.

67 percent. Tell me again how this is a controversial, far-left idea. McMahon.

And finally, a poll from and outfit called EBRI on support (or not) for the public option:

• Strongly support--53 percent

• Somewhat support--30 percent

• Somewhat oppose--5 percent

• Strongly oppose--9 percent

Altogether, 83 percent favor the public option and 14 percent are opposed. Controversial!

Now, you might be asking, What the hell is EBRI? Briefly, it's a conservative non-profit organization called the Employee Benefit Research Institute, and according to their website, this particular poll was paid for by such far-left moonbat groups as:

... AARP, American Express, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Buck Consultants, Chevron, Deere & Company, IBM, Mercer, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Principal Financial Group, Schering-Plough Corp., Shell Oil Company, The Commonwealth Fund, and Towers Perrin.

In other words, it would've been in the best interest of some of these corporations to show very little support for the public option, but their actual survey results show exactly the opposite and, in fact, their numbers outpace the more Democratic-leaning Lake Research poll. (To be fair, it's also worth mentioning one outlier poll. Conservative Rasmussen shows Americans evenly divided on the public option.)

As for making everyone happy, McMahon and others are trying to tell us that we'll all be thrilled with 80 votes but no public option. Maybe his clients, whoever they are, will be happy with 80 votes, but not real people who have been long enduring real-life health insurance nightmares.

Last week, readers wrote to me with numerous heart-wrenching stories detailing a wide array of health insurance horror stories and insider shenanigans.

An executive director for a very profitable HMO who was attempting to emphasize "quality of care" told me about an angry memo he received from a regional manager scolding him with the mandate: "Only a naive or novice manager would put quality of care as their first priority." Profit, naturally, is king.

And the following note was easily the most shocking. If you happen to be Stephen Colbert, stop reading now.

I received an email from a California woman named Allena Hansen who was mauled by a bear. I repeat, she was mauled by a bear. And her insurance carrier dodged and refused to pay for the requisite medical care:

Last summer, while working on my ranch in the Southern Sierra mountains, I was attacked and badly mauled by a predatory black bear. Although my face was ripped off, and I was blinded, I was able to make my way back to my vehicle and drive myself down a rutted mountain road to a fire station for help. From there I was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center where a team of nearly a hundred people put me back together in a grueling seven-hour emergency surgery.

That was the easy part.

Although I've maintained a private individual health insurance policy with Blue Cross of California for thirty (30) years, they have, at every turn of my ordeal, tried to waffle, obfuscate, or outright deny me benefits for medical care. (continued here)

Everyone will be happy with 80 votes and no public option, McMahon? Who, exactly?

Despite the evidence, your elected representatives -- irrespective of party or ideology -- are crumbling and hedging and capitulating on this thing. And why? It can't be polls or lack of popular support. So we can only gather that anyone who is trying to tell you that the public option is unpopular, controversial, fringe or out-of-touch is either lying, bought off by the healthcare lobby, a spineless capitulator, or all three. Passing healthcare reform with a public option is an easily winnable fight, yet too many Democrats on the hill are taking a dive, and too many Americans are falling for the same lies. Don"t let them get away with it this time.

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