Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Public Not An Option - Healthcare Part II Published 9/22/2009

Socialism abounds. Or at least this would be what those opposed to healthcare reform would like the average American to believe. Seemingly everyone questioned by Naked World Post is for a reformation of the healthcare system, but are then quick to add that they are against the idea of socialized medicine. Dr. Stephen Graf, a professor at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA told NWP that he hurt his knee while in Great Britain and the doctor, “kept telling me that nothing was wrong with it. That’s why I am against socialized medicine.” This is a highly educated man and his opposition to the public option in healthcare reform is based on nonsense. What hope does the average American have?

A few of the people questioned were in favor of a public option closer to the structure of a single-payer system. One such system in use in the country today is the health insurance provided to active members of the military. Soldiers and their spouses use what is known as TRICARE. “I love it. It’s the best insurance I have ever had,” said Melissa Williams, a nurse and wife of a soldier currently deployed to Iraq. Melissa’s coverage under this government-sponsored plan is more inclusive and easier to deal with the plan offered by her employer, a hospital. This type of single-payer insurance, with the single-payer being the government, is the exact type of socialized medicine that shit-shovelers like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity would have you believe is akin to Uncle Sam taking the constitution, wiping his ass with it, and then using it for an illegal immigrant’s band-aid.

The single-payer system is a simple idea and inherently non-evil. The government would pay doctors and hospitals for treatments the patients receive. Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NJ) is a very vocal supporter of the idea of “Medicare for all,” which would take the current system of Medicare and overhaul it so that it would cover all Americans. While Medicare has its funding issues, 94% of seniors in a Quinnipiac poll are completely satisfied with the level of care they receive. Congressman Weiner has said that he does not believe insurance companies are not evil, but are in fact just following their highly-successful business model: take in as much money as you can and pay out as little as possible.

With the individual mandate for insurance coverage one of the only guaranteed portions of whatever bill we end up with, this is good news for the health insurance companies. The lack of a public option could allow for minimal cost reform and a slew of new business for these companies, but no actionable accountability. The competition provided by the public option would, in theory, force the insurance companies to lower their overhead and take in fewer profits. Socialism? No, but perhaps it can be fairly categorized as anti-capitalist. At least as far as health insurance is concerned. But since when does everything have to make a profit?

Goldman-Sachs has received a significant percentage of the economic bailout money, some sent directly to them, some received from its debtors, such as AIG. Goldman-Sachs has also continued to post record profits and to pay its executives record-breaking bonuses, all mostly taxpayer money. This type of corporate socialism was deemed as unfortunate but necessary; in fact Goldman-Sachs economists had suggested to the government that a $2 trillion stimulus was needed rather than a paltry $800 billion. How is it that the government and the American people as a whole were agreeable to this plan, but healthcare for all has been such a hard sell?

The Republicans have done an effective job with taking portions of the difficult to understand language in the house bill and distorting it into crazy claims that even the President of the United States doesn’t have enough clout to counter. Sean Hannity, at the suggestion of righty pollster Frank Luntz, started calling the public option the “government option,” because a poll showed that when called that instead of “public option,” with no explanation of what it is, the public likes “government option” less. Says Hannity to the pollster, “Well then, we are going to call it the ‘government option’ on this show from now on.”

When Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) unveiled his summary of the bill coming out of the Senate Finance Committee, it matched the framework of the outline laid out by the President in his speech last week. However, it is a poor match at best. The most glaring omission is the lack of a public option. Instead, non-profit healthcare cooperatives would be created to aid those without insurance in finding an “affordable” plan. The Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan entity, said in a report that these “co-ops” would be “unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country." Also, employers are not required to offer healthcare, but if an employer has 50 or more employees, the company would be required to reimburse the federal government for the tax credits for health insurance given to their employees. Senator Baucus also claims that tax credits in the bill would “encourage” small business owners to provide coverage to their employees.

Congressman Weiner said of the plan on Keith Olbermann’s show on MSNBC that it was less of a reform and more of an insurance company giveaway. With no public option and a lack of market presence for these non-profit cooperatives, the chance that real reform can happen is slim. What citizens may end up with is a requirement to have health insurance and be still unable to afford the only slightly less expensive plans.

While insurers are barred from dropping a client for any “pre-existing conditions” it only protects those who are up to date on their premiums. Said one insurance salesman, on condition of anonymity, “I can already imagine five or six ways that the company could drop someone they didn’t want to cover based on those criteria.”

As the debate continues to unfold, it is very important to observe how the argument for the public option develops on the legislative floor. The rage seen from those at town hall meetings in the past weeks have shown that the Republicans, while short on power in terms of votes, retain their ability to mobilize a constituency based on fear. Will we see this same tactic used when the bills are openly debated by the likes of Senator Chuck Grassley (R, IA) and Congressman Joe Wilson (R, SC).

Ironically, a significant portion of those seen decrying the evils of socialized medicine in town halls and in the news were citizens most likely currently using Medicare. Are these same protestors willing to give up their current socialized insurance? The protestor who famously and inexplicably lost a portion of his finger while rallying against socialized medicine and had his digit reattached was promptly covered by Medicare. If only the 45.7 million uninsured Americans could be so lucky.

Later this week, Naked World Post will examine how a party marginalized in the last election has been able to so effectively spread misinformation and block the reform. The role of the media will be examined as well as the actions of specific members of the legislature. Also examined will be where those pushing for reform, specifically the President, failed as well. Keep checking the Naked World Post for the bare-assed truth about all sorts of over-dressed jackals.

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