Monday, August 17, 2009

Will Obama pull the plug on the public option?

The Obama administration is signaling it might be ready for compromise on health care reform, and may drop the government-run public option in favor of funding non-profit private health care co-ops using government grants.

It could be the biggest blunder of the president's political career.

Though he will get some reform passed (such as abolishing the practice of denying coverage based on preexisting conditions), a compromise like this would have minimum effects on those who can't afford insurance coverage anyway. Nearly 46 million Americans go without any type of health coverage whatsoever. Millions more are "underinsured," paying for what they believe is full coverage but in actuality covers very little. Tens of thousands die every year because they fit into one of these two categories.

Politically speaking, the move is suicide for Democrats. Though moderates would call it a victory nonetheless, in the eyes of die-hard conservatives like the TEA Party enthusiasts, victory will be all theirs. Their methods for defeating Democratic plans will become legitimized, and a stronger, more powerful extremism in conservatism will come about from this. Republicans will be forced to move even more to the right, and liberal Democrats may form a third party to compete with a Democratic one they see as defunct.

As in years past, the Democrats seem to have lost their spine. I'll be the first to acknowledge the benefits that bipartisanship has -- if you can pass a bill with a lot of cooperation, that's the best way to do it, and if you need to compromise in order to get something important passed, you should do that when feasible. But that is not the situation we find ourselves in -- Democrats, like Obama himself, were elected in part because of the promise of health care reform in this country. With a majority in both houses of Congress, Democrats should not be acting like cowards on this important issue.

When I first read that the public option may be dropped, I was stunned. I had so much hope for this country, so much hope for the millions of Americans who were depending on such a program.

I was not alone -- my hope was (still is) shared by a majority of Americans. More than 60 percent of citizens support a public option as part of the health care reform bill; only about 30 percent oppose it. But those who oppose it's passage don't always have the facts right.

There will be no "death panels" or rationing of care; no massive tax hikes on the middle class or waiting lines. No bureaucrat will stand between you and your doctor, the way that some insurance company might do today.

Here's what WILL happen: people will have affordable health care. Prices will drop substantially in the private sector. Everyone will have access to some form of health coverage. Companies will no longer be able to deny you coverage if you pay for it. No one will keep you from receiving the medical examinations or procedures you need because it's too costly (while they collect billions in profits in the process). Most importantly, the 22,000 Americans who would normally die due to lacking health coverage would instead have their lives spared, given a second chance because they had a government option to fall back on when everyone else turned their backs on them.

This country NEEDS this kind of reform. It NEEDS a publicly-run insurer, and it NEEDS to provide competition to the companies that gouge our wallets while providing little coverage.

Call your Congressional representatives. Tell everyone you can to do the same. All it takes is three phone calls a day -- one to your Representative in Congress and two to your Senators. Below is the information you need. Forward this information to as many people as you can! Together, we can change the momentum on health care.

Tammy Baldwin
(202) 225-2906 (Washington DC)
(608) 258-9800 (Madison)
Russ Feingold
(202) 224-5323 (Washington DC)
On the Web Contact Form
Herb Kohl
(202) 224-5653 (Washington DC)
On the Web Contact Form - Contact any Rep in Congress

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