The Public Option is Not Socialism (just the lesser of two evils)

It’s pretty pathetic that the health insurance industry is spending a whopping $1.4 million PER DAY lobbying / bribing Congress not to pass any legislation that hurts the health insurance companies’ bottom line (See: Missing Richard Nixon, NY Times Op-Ed, 8-30-09.)

You’d think they might want to spend that money on something like, oh I don’t know, maybe providing health care for their customers. But unfortunately they’re not really in the health care business; they’re just flat out in business.

We need to take drastic action to begin any attempt at fixing the health insurance mess and while I’m not a total supporter of the public option several intelligent people do think it’s a good idea.

And I’m not against it because it’s socialism, which it isn’t. For more on the dreaded S word and other reform lies spread by the health insurance industry and its highly paid PR companies read Why Everyone Needs to Know About Wendell Potter.

Mr. Potter spent 20 years working as a health insurance company public relations executive until he got fed up with lying to the American public about his industry and reform. He is now divulging some of the most pathetic, heinous information to ever be released by a corporate insider. And he’s one of the intelligent people I mentioned above who supports a public option.

My problem with the public option is I just don’t buy the government’s line that it will save us money in the long run given the fact that politicians always screw up large-scale projects like this one.

Take Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as examples. What started out as a good thing, providing home mortgages to middle- and lower-income families, turned into another moneymaking scheme for the fat cats in Congress. The government actually allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (which are for the most part government-sponsored programs) to make campaign contributions to politicians. That’s incredibly pathetic and asinine. The politicians basically treated Fannie and Freddie like additional bank accounts.

But another one of those smart people I mentioned who does support the public option is New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (although what he did regarding term limits is absolutely abhorring.)

Keep in mind Mayor Bloomberg is a capitalist all the way (and not the dreaded S word!) This past summer he wrote an op-ed piece for the NY Daily News called A public insurance plan will help heal a broken health care system (7-1-09.) He notes that if done properly, the public option will provide “exactly the kind of competition our system needs.”

He then writes about his own highly successful company: “When I started a small business 28 years ago, there were other companies that offered financial information to banks and businesses. But we found a way to do it better. That gave our customers more options, and it strengthened the marketplace of financial information.”

Bloomberg also points out that public option plans could provide the same coverage as private plans for less money because the public option providers will have lower administrative costs than private companies. He also says the public option plans could use their market share to get lower prices for consumers.

Bloomberg adds that: “These two steps would also positively affect the rest of the health insurance market, making it more efficient, innovative and customer-oriented, which is exactly what we need.”

No wonder the private health insurance companies are spending the incredulous sum of $1.4 million PER DAY lobbying / bribing Congress to kill the public option.

Another very smart person, Cappy McGarr, has intimate knowledge of the health insurance problem and also supports a public option. McGarr currently runs a private equity firm (no socialist here!) but was also the chairman of the Texas Insurance Purchasing Alliance from 1993 to 1995. This Alliance was one of those health insurance exchanges many politicians talk about who think exchanges are better than a public option.

These health insurance exchanges create a system where small businesses (over half of all the uninsured people here work for small businesses) form purchasing groups that are big enough to get lower wholesale health insurance rates that large companies receive.

Unfortunately though, if you read McGarr’s A Texas-Sized Health Care Failure, NY Times Op-Ed, 10-6-09, you’ll see how the private health insurance companies figured out how to kill the exchanges. And this is also probably why so many politicians support such exchanges – it pleases their private health insurance campaign contributors since they shut so many down!

In his Op-Ed McGarr writes that it would be better for Congress to create a public plan “that could provide an attractive choice for consumers and real competition for private insurers, to give them the incentive to offer good coverage at affordable prices.

But without a public plan, tough rules and restrictions on insurance companies will be essential. Otherwise, Americans will never be able to count on good, affordable health care.”

I guess I see the public option as the lesser of the two evils. Private health insurers have proven, for years unfortunately with ever-increasing rates, precondition denials and canceling policies when people get sick or injured, that they can’t do the job properly. They’re in it for the profit, plain, pure and simple. And if you don’t believe me I urge you to read what Wendell Potter has to say.

In theory, the public option should work. But it would be a miracle if the government pulls it off.

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