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Without a Public Option, Is It Still Healthcare Reform?

March 20, 2010

The clock is ticking as Democrats steel themselves for Sunday’s healthcare showdown in Congress. Aided by vigorous last-minute boosterism from their man in the White House, they expect nothing less than victory. 

The Democrats stand a more-than-fair chance of birthing this baby after a long and painful gestation. But will it be a viable baby? Will it provide a safety net for the millions of uninsured, unemployed and fincially unraveled Americans suffering through the most disastrous economic downturn since 1929? Will it help self-employed Americans, those enterprising souls who don’t have the good fortune to receive employer-funded health coverage?  Is it even an improvement over the current pay-or-die system that distinguishes the U.S. from virtually every other civilized nation on the planet?

I have to conclude that the Democrats must be desperate for a victory — any kind of victory. Even with their grip on the White House and a laughable majority in the House and Senate, they’ve effectively been stalled and stymied for an entire year. This ongoing stalemate makes them look ineffectual at best.

The bill appearing before Congress on Sunday has been nibbled to the bone, like the great marlin caught by the title character in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. And yet the Democrats still push for its adoption, just as the old fisherman insisted on towing his prize catch back to shore even as the sharks continued to feast on its carcass.

What intrigues me as a moderate is that the Right still views the bill as the handiwork of Beelzebub, a surefire prescription for socialism and ruin. Somehow, in their compulsively combative minds, they still regard it as a slippery slope toward a public single-payer option (i.e., total government control of healthcare).

This seems like a huge conceptual leap to me; it’s like saying that birth is a slippery slope toward death. In fact, the plan going before Congress this weekend is LESS of a slippery slope toward single-payer healthcare than birth is toward death.  If anything, the current plan takes a big step backwards: not only won’t we be using our tax dollars to create a low-cost healthcare safety net, we’ll now be FORCED to buy PRIVATE insurance! If I didn’t know better, I’d think the plan was concocted by conservative Republicans. And this is what the Democrats are celebrating as they look toward victory on Sunday!? The insurance companies are the ones that should be celebrating.

I don’t believe that the government should take control of healthcare; I’m a self-confessed moderate after all. But I did want to see a public option put out there as a competitive alternative to the private option. Sick people need affordable coverage, which the insurance companies don’t provide. And insurance companies shouldn’t have to take undue risks on chronically ill policy holders. It works both ways. That’s why the public option (emphasis on option) would have been such a godsend.

Unfortunately, the public option is no longer a menu offering on the healthcare bill. Neither is tort reform. I’m not crazy about the other offerings, so I’m not biting. Sad to say, the outcome of Sunday’s vote will be a matter of complete indifference to me.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2010 1:40 am

    The whole thing about forcing people to buy insurance, that’s not going to last. Precedent has shown that the government cannot force anyone to buy anything. (look at the parts of the New Deal that the Supreme Court overturned) Car insurance doesn’t count, by the way, nobody _has_ to buy a car. I do think this bill is a “Hills have Eyes” monster, but that’s what you get when you try to involve Republicans in bills meant to help people. This bill will either get repealed or amended, with a public option soon to follow, along with some helpful cost and regulation reforms. (I hope) But it just might give the Dems in congress the kind of balls they need to push stuff past the Republicans.

  2. March 21, 2010 11:31 pm

    Well, the Democrats have their bill. As soon as Obama stamps it with his signature, it will be law. It’s a strange piece of work: it forces everyone to buy insurance, it forces companies to provide insurance for their employees, and it forces insurance companies to cover high-risk individuals. A lot of forcing here — I don’t like it. I’ll have more to say in my next post.

  3. March 22, 2010 12:06 am

    Hopefully it’ll change for the better, but now I don’t have to buy insurance utill I’m 26

  4. Priscilla permalink
    March 22, 2010 9:52 am

    By the way, not that it’s a surprise, but Captain Hook can count on his bad hand how many members of the House Progressive Caucus kept their threat to vote against any health care bill that didn’t include a public option.

    TK, I think the Dems showed plenty of balls – brass ones, in fact – that they could willfully ignore the minority party and the majority of voters. Amnesty is up next, so that they can add 12 million to the healthcare (and voter) rolls. Watch them take a similar path.

    The public be damned – that’s the ticket.

    • March 22, 2010 10:28 am

      Priscilla: LOL “Captain Hook can count on his bad hand…” Probably not PC; it might be considered offensive to people with artificial limbs. Anyway, I fully expected the Democrats to ignore the minority party, as the Republicans ignored the majority party. But ignoring the will of the people is another matter entirely.

      The amnesty vote you mention — are they actually going to vote on amnesty for illegal immigrants? I hadn’t heard about this. Oh man… that would be the last straw for the tea party folks (even for me).

    • March 22, 2010 11:41 am

      What part of the tantrum throwing GOP deserved attention? The Teabaggers calling people niggers and socialist Nazis? Or the pro-lifers, who called _Stupak_ a baby killer? What they deserve is a time out. (or maybe fines, for hate speech and/or slander)And the progressives who voted for the “lite” bill, only did so because they knew that they couldn’t afford to vote no, and that the Republicans would not vote for a plan with an “evil socialist takeover” included. (not that any of them did anyway.)

      On amnesty, no politician, be they democrat or republican, will vote for amnesty and keep their seat. (I hope) I cannot even fathom why they would have to vote on such a stupid course of action. But then, I’m not a politician.

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