Monday Stuff

How was your Halloween? Two friends and I settled on a group costume. We went as “three of a kind” and dressed as the queens of diamonds, spades, and clubs. As you can see in the photo, I was clubs. (Levana was a badass roller derby chick. Her costume rocked.)

We had other good ideas, but some of the necessary props were seasonal. Like being “three sheets to the wind” complete with handheld fans. Awesome idea, right? Good luck finding a fan in DC in October. Even CVS – which is notoriously chock full of crap no one needs – is fan-free this time of year.

Now with the holiday behind us, it is back to all health care all the time. Couple of writes to point out this morning.

First, Davis Lazarus in the LA Times:

Listening to business leaders sputter and whine about a public option is about as convincing as listening to the insurance industry serve up repeated predictions of medical doom, all the while salivating over a government requirement that nearly all Americans buy their product.

The only opinion that matters here is that of the millions of people who can’t afford or obtain health insurance, or who have found their coverage wanting when they need it most.

And Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar who writes for the AP has the aha! moment I’ve been pushing for months:

What’s all the fuss about? After all the noise over Democrats’ push for a government insurance plan to compete with private carriers, coverage numbers are finally in: Two percent.

That’s the estimated share of Americans younger than 65 who’d sign up for the public option plan under the health care bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is steering toward House approval.

(…)

Some experts are wondering if lawmakers have wasted too much time arguing about the public plan, giving short shrift to basics such as ensuring that new coverage will be affordable.

Some experts? We’ve been making this point all along. The public health insurance option is an essential part of reform because it’s the only way to lower costs and force the insurance companies to clean up their act (They’d finally really have to compete for your business.) But it’s not the only essential part of reform. Affordability, comprehensive coverage, and fair financing versus taxation of benefits are all equally important issues deserving much more attention than they’ve received both in Congress and in the press.

Yes, media peeps, YOU have blown the public option way out of proportion.

And though I like Ricardo, his closing line is atrocious:

If Congress passes a public plan that’s not much of a sensation, Democrats might have reason to regret all the time and energy they invested in it.

If by sensation he means “not covering a lot of people,” he’s missed the mark. It doesn’t have to cover a lot of people. It has to be strong and national and available on day one in order to compete with the private health insurance behemoths. People will have a choice – one choice – that’s not profit-driven and beholden to Wall Street. That alone is enough. If by sensation he means it’s too weak to make a dent in health insurers’ business as usual, then there still won’t be regret over time spent. There will be regret that Members of Congress weren’t strong enough to stand up to the health insurance lobbyists who’ve set up camp on the Hill.

Republicans, health insurance companies, and other right wing opponents of reform made the public option the centerpiece of their anti-reform campaign because it was an easy target. It wasn’t well-defined so it was easily manipulated into this huge “government takeover” bogeyman. Democrats and other reform advocates fought back to protect it because they understand WHY it’s so critical to have in the mix. It didn’t start as ideological on the left, and it’s not ideological on the left even today. For Democrats, it’s practical and good policy.

How much of the media has stopped and thought about WHY the insurance industry opposes the public option so vehemently? We know it’s not because it will drive them out of business. And we know it’s not because they won’t be able to compete.

It’s because it will work. Really work. And insurance companies will have to change the way they operate or lose business. They will have to be transparent. They will have to give you what you pay for. They will have to play fair. And if they don’t, you will finally – FINALLY – have somewhere else to go.

That’s why I say even if you have private health insurance and want to keep it, you should be fighting like hell to make sure we get a public health insurance option in the exchange.

I’m annoyed it took this long for a story like Ricardo’s to come out, but I’m glad it finally has. Better late – really late – than never, I suppose.

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