The Reasoned Review

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Death of an Option

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I’ve tried to stay away from the unholy imbroglio of our “health care debate”, more, perhaps, from a love of sanity than a lack of interest. The endless grubbing for votes, the pointless Republican obstructionism and the overt deviation from Senate rules (bills are supposed to need only 51 votes, remember?) have left me thoroughly disgusted with the affair. The one ray of hope was the surprising resurrection of the public option debate, but that, too, has been taken from us.

Ezra Klein and The Washington Post have effectively declared the “strong” public option (a non-profit scheme wherein the uninsured can buy-in to Medicare at subsidized rates) dead and cremated.

An interesting question now arises as to whether health-care reform would still be worth it without a strong public option. I admit I have not combed through the 4,105 page bill currently being discussed, but my feeling is that “health care reform” without a public option becomes “health insurance reform”. While both schemes promise to extend insurance to a proportion of America’s currently uninsured (say, 25 million out of 45 million now without insurance), “health insurance reform” would leave much of the industry’s profits intact. “Health care reform” would instead bite into the for-profit paradigm that now prevails.

Aside from the Public Option, the other significant part of the proposed reforms is the “mandate”. Way back, during the 2008 Democratic Primaries, Hillary and Barack had a minor feud regarding this bit of policy, which produced an amusing bit of histrionics from our Secretary of State (“Shame on you, Barack Obama!”). Obama then attacked Hillary for her health care plan, objecting to her “mandate”, which would force Americans to buy insurance (in much the same manner as car insurance is mandated). Shortly after winning the Presidency, Obama changed course (“flip-flopped”, as the expression goes) and came out in support of the mandate, which is now featured prominently in our present health care bill.

It stands to reason that a country-wide mandate without an adjoining non-profit health exchange would be a massive boon to the existing health-insurance providers. With a stroke of the legislative pen, these companies will immediately receive tens of millions of new customers, who, after all, have no choice but to buy health insurance from them or pay a hefty fine. Meanwhile, with no non-profit alternative, our existing “health providers” can make out like bandits on fees and overcharges.

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Written by pavanvan

December 15, 2009 at 4:29 pm

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