For the Democrats, Public Option is Our Waterloo
President Obama's advisers acknowledged Tuesday that they were unprepared for the intraparty rift that occurred over the fate of a proposed public health insurance program, a firestorm that has left the White House searching for a way to reclaim the initiative on the president's top legislative priority.
"I don't understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo," said a senior White House adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We've gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don't understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform." WaPost
I don’t understand why the president and his advisors find this so difficult to understand. Most of the progressives in the Democratic Party would prefer a single-payer system in which the Government negotiates for all health care on behalf of consumers and insurance companies are cut entirely out of the loop.
With insurance companies spreading around money in Washington and state capitals as if it were mulch in a tomato patch, many progressives such as myself have reluctantly concluded that single-payer, although it's the best option, is not politically feasible in uber-capitalist America, where even people’s medical care must be a profit center for someone, instead of just a system in which hundreds of thousands of health care professionals receive a salary in exchange for their efforts.
So, when the Obama Administration began speaking of a “Public Option” that would not replace all of the insurance companies, but merely give the public an alternative to insurance companies, many of us progressives believed that was as good as we could get in the current climate.
Now, Obama tells us that even the public option may be just a big new group of medical consumers beholden to the same large insurance companies that we hate because they refuse to pay for the services that we need when we need them. And Obama tells us that perhaps there will be no public option at all. Instead, the most expensive health care system in the world will become 15% more expensive as 50 million people are added to the roles of the same venal and callous insurance companies that we already hate.
It’s ruinously like the Government giving out gás vouchers to commuters when gás is costing five dollars per gallon and oil companies are experiencing record profits. Even the extremely rich people, whom the Democrats would tax to pay for health care, might reasonably ask why their tax dollars should be given to insurance companies that already spend ten times as much on administrative overhead and profits, compared to Medicare and the Veterans Administration.
As one commentor said here yesterday,
Of course, we do need public option for the reform! It's very simple. If Obama doesn't include public option to the reform, the bill could be killed like what WA Post said. Moreover, we'll be paying $60 billion directly into health insurance industry per year without the public option.
A reasonable onlooker might easily wonder why the Government doesn’t just expand what works: An expanded "Veterans and Patriots Administration" (which would provide hospital care to all who request it, paid for out of the Federal Treasury as the VA Hospitals and clinics are now; and a massive expansion of the Community Health Centers that train new doctors in exchange for free tuition during medical school. And bulk purchases of medicines that are provided for free, again out of the Federal Treasury.
Many progressives wonder why a system like this, that works in Brazil and Canada, cannot be established in the United States.
So, when we hear that Single Payer is definitely off the table and that a public option will also be scrapped, we know that we are being sold down the river.
As The Root online magazine observes,
. . . our beloved president is allowing himself to be punked on what may be the most serious test he will ever face. And he’s not even putting up a good fight.
I refer, of course, to the horrendously disappointing way in which his administration is giving away the store to the very same forces that have created the health care crisis in America: the big health insurers and drug companies. He should be battling for the revolutionary changes in the health care system he promised during his campaign. The Root
Some of us would gladly trade the right to sue doctors for a right to sue insurance companies. We know that the profit-based medical reform Obama is offering will be no more useful or reassuring than a requirement that rapists wear condoms. Meanwhile, medical consumers are tired of getting screwed. That’s why we elected Democratic Party candidate Obama, and that’s why we’re so disappointed in his leadership on this issue.
President Obama's leadership polling is plunging because those who always opposed health care transformation still oppose it, and those who desperately hoped for reform have less faith than ever that real reform is on the table.
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