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Sorry, I just CAN’T (Support a Public Option for Healthcare Reform)

Posted by ajspage on June 23, 2009

I’ve been getting pleas from MoveOn.org to support healthcare reform in the form of a public option that competes with private insurance.  Today, Senators Schumer, Leahy and Durbin blogged about it on the Huffington Post, asking people to sign an online petition to support a public option.

Here’s why I can’t.  (In addition to my latest post on this blog.)

I can’t sign on to a public option, because fighting for a reform that is doomed to failure is worse than doing nothing.

I heard today that proponents of the public option are dismissing a counter proposal by Conservatives to use local insurance co-ops instead.  This is an option that has actually been shown to work in places like Grand Junction, Colorado, where they provided universal coverage, saved money, and got better results (as featured on June 19th Science Friday, NPR radio).  An important aspect of Grand Junction’s reform was to insure everyone with a single, non-profit insurance “co-op” — they never used the word “single-payer”, but that’s essentially what they enacted.  The physician guest from Grand Junction made the point that if government requires everyone to purchase insurance, the insurance must be not-for-profit.

Look, I have no illusions that Republicans proposed regional single-payers-by-another-name.  But if they’re proposing co-ops, that’s what has been shown to work, and that’s what we need to counter with. We should be making the hard black-and-white fiscal arguments.  Ultimately, saving huge amounts of money for our country and freeing our businesses from the extraordinary burden that insurance companies foist on the system, our businesses, and our workers will convince real Conservatives — and there’s no convincing the rest, there just isn’t.  We’ve tried it their way, now let’s fight for what we know will work.

If the compromise is allowing regional single-payer co-ops instead of implementing a monolithic federal single-payer — that could work, too.  But it would still have to be a single-payer framework to save real money.  A public option is not single payer and will not save nearly as much money.

According to a Public Citizen study, we spend less than half of our $2.4 trillion ANNUAL health care economy on ACTUAL CARE, the rest goes to non-care expenses, largely because of private insurers.  We no longer have the luxury of clinging to tired old ideological arguments.  We have to make the case for single-payer within a private delivery system — and compromise on the specific implementation of “single-payer” if it will mean consensus — but if we can’t get that, we must fight for what we know will work.

Without the overwhelming and corrupting influence of private insurers, we will be far more free to improve on whatever system we have in the future.  The public option leaves the insurers in place to work the system to their favor again and thwart meaningful reform.  I’m not going to support squandering our big opportunity at reform.  Our country, our economy, our future, the lives of our loves ones are at stake.

Ask me — and the majority of the public who are for single-payer — to support the right reform.  Stop asking us to support watered-down reforms that won’t work.


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