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ADA: #Obama should not cave on the public option for health care

Amy Isaacs of Americans for Democratic Action writes for McClatchy:

Federal plan based on Medicare would be less costly, more efficient than private insurance

[M]any are pressuring President Obama to go back on his campaign pledge to offer a government-sponsored low-cost insurance option in favor of a series of small fixes or doing nothing at all. They say it would be too dangerous to move forward now on a government-financed, privately provided system because of the weakened U.S. economy. They say we just can't afford it.

On the contrary, we can't afford not to. Full, responsible healthcare reform is an investment in America's future that protects employers, employees, and, yes, the unemployed who need good health to get and keep a job.

The weakened economy is precisely why President Obama needs to address this problem boldly and immediately. Simply making current procedures more efficient will not solve the fundamental problem of the American healthcare system: Most of us get our insurance through our jobs or through a family member's job.

Healthcare is a human right and access to it should not be dependent on being employed or being able to afford your own private insurance, really a privilege exclusive to the rich these days. A private health plan costs a family on average $12,000 per year.

But if efficiency is all the naysayers care about, let's compare private insurance to our nation's premier publicly funded system: Medicare. Medicare wins hands down.

Private health insurance wastes $350-billion every year, enough to pay for high-quality comprehensive healthcare for everyone.

So why does private health insurance have a seat at the table at all?

Where does that money go? With private insurance, 30 cents of every dollar pays for non-medical related costs: marketing, billing, denying coverage, hassling patients and doctors, profits and astronomical CEO salaries; Medicare overhead, on the other hand, costs just 3 cents on the dollar.

Medicare was enacted in 1965 and implemented in 1966, covering services at 6,600 hospitals, 250,000 physicians, 1,300 home health agencies and some nursing homes.

At that time, The New York Times reported the smooth start on its first day, when 160,000 eligible patients who were in the hospital nationwide were covered immediately. By the end of the first year, more than 95 percent of eligible patients and doctors participated, and 90 percent of the 43-million eligible older and disabled individuals were enrolled – all before computers.

Ironically the cost saving efficiencies advocated as an alternative to full-scale reform by the people opposed to the President's government-financed plan [Let's not count our chickens...] are the same already in use by Medicare, including:

- Doctors' only "paperwork" would be billing the government electronically, as they now do for Medicare, eliminating the myriad insurance companies forms and processes that have become expensive and unmanageable. Patients and taxpayers would benefit from negotiated prices of prescription drugs.

- Doctors would place the emphasize prevention.

All the evidence shows that publicly financed systems, unburdened by the need for marketing and profits, can provide better care, less expensively. No one is left out and you can take the coverage with you from job to job.

The opponents argue this would eliminate choice - a word that gives the aura of freedom. What they don't seem to understand is we want free choice of a doctor, rather than choice of a costly, and for some prohibitively so, insurance company.


NOTE Tragically, Isaacs is fighting for a public option when all the logic of her commentary militates in favor of single payer -- as Medicare for All.

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vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

By shying away from (*shudder*) "socialized medicine," they've set a "public option" -- that if offered at all will surely be subject to many sops to Big Insurance -- as the outer-fringe of the acceptable.

Submitted by hipparchia on

even the liberal ones. leaves them more to do [earn $$ from] next year, and the year after that, and the year after that...

how many of them would lose their jobs if we passed hr 676?

and yes, ordinary good-hearted americans have been misled into believing that this is truly the only way we can get somewhere.

Submitted by lambert on

Let the pros play Inside Baseball. It's not our job to internalize what the Village wants, let alone "stand with the Democrats" (which is awfully hard to do when you're under the bus). It's our job to advocate as forcefully as we can for what we know is the right policy.

Jess Fiedorowicz's picture
Submitted by Jess Fiedorowicz on

I couldn't agree more, Lambert, and the public option is certainly not the right policy.

Our advocacy efforts lose credibility if we stand behind a proposal that fails to meet the goals of covering all or controlling costs.