Exactly what are we fighting for… a public option?

When we first started talking about Healthcare Reform, I mentioned that I really, really supported a single payer (government run) program. If we provide the exact same healthcare services, we could save over $300 billion per year with a single payer system(although, I must admit, many people dispute this number). There would be significantly less administrative overhead. We would have the ability to direct funding into clinical research that would give physicians answers to the most important medical questions. What is the best drug for hypertension? Are drugs and exercise the best combination for a long life? How much exercise do you need in order to have cardiovascular benefit? We don’t have the answers to these questions.

Now, almost eight months later, we are bickering about a public option. We’re not even bickering about a strong public option. No healthcare plan that has been seriously debated in Congress covers all Americans. So this isn’t really healthcare reform. This is health insurance reform, sort of. Although this is much less than any progressive would’ve wanted, we have to push forward. We have to get something passed. We can’t go back to the American people in 2010 and say that we tried. That simply isn’t good enough. We have to pass some sort of meaningful healthcare legislation.

From DK (McJoan):

Progressive observers of the healthcare reform effort aren’t too heartened after the continuing recalcitrance of three ConservaDems and Joe Lieberman on healthcare reform, and the newfound willingness in leadership, as expressed by Dick Durbin to find a way to mollify them. The problem is, anything that works to make these guys happy isn’t going to be real reform.

Here’s Robert Reich:

But what more can possibly be compromised? Take away the word “public?” Make it available to only twelve people?

Our private, for-profit health insurance system, designed to fatten the profits of private health insurers and Big Pharma, is about to be turned over to … our private, for-profit health care system. Except that now private health insurers and Big Pharma will be getting some 30 million additional customers, paid for by the rest of us.

Upbeat policy wonks and political spinners who tend to see only portions of cups that are full will point out some good things: no pre-existing conditions, insurance exchanges, 30 million more Americans covered. But in reality, the cup is 90 percent empty. Most of us will remain stuck with little or no choice — dependent on private insurers who care only about the bottom line, who deny our claims, who charge us more and more for co-payments and deductibles, who bury us in forms, who don’t take our calls.

As I see it, the Democrats really have two other fights down the road and we need to win both of them if we are going to have any hope of holding on to Congress in 2010. Banking reform. Green jobs legislation. The Republicans and conservative Democrats will fight tooth and nail to make sure that this does not happen. So it is too early for us to get tired and frustrated by the legislative process. Unless we want to turn over Congress to the Republicans, we have to have more to show for our efforts. Let’s tighten our seatbelts, because it is definitely going to be… a bumpy ride.

0 Responses

  1. “We would have the ability to direct funding into clinical research that would give physicians answers to the most important medical questions”

    By this , I guess we can assume that all of the countries with government run health care are far ahead of the US in medical research and production of state of the art medicines and medical equipment.

    After all, these other countries have had decades to outpace the wasteful, inefficient United States.

    So, they are all way ahead of us, yes?

    So tell us, which country is the leader in medical research?

    In production of the latest life saving drugs?

    In the invention of medical devices?

    In pioneering new surgical approaches and innovative treatments?

    The US shouldn’t even be second or third in any of these categories, right?

    We should be at the bottom of the list, correct?

  2. I don’t know what kind of health care reform will come out of this session, but I strongly suspect it won’t be much. There is, however a silver lining behind this very dark cloud. I am reminded of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve never heard of it, there really isn’t a hell of a lot to remember about it; a mere pittance, really – a scrap of leftovers tossed out to “American Negros” (in the parlance of the age) in order to appease them. But it made the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – the one we remember – all-the-more easier seven years later.

    We’ll live to fight another day.


    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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