Without a Public Option, Is It Still Healthcare Reform?
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.