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Health Reform Must Include Public Option

Home News Tribune / MyCentralJersey.com — Monday, December 14, 2009

Letters to the Editor

As health care reform approaches the final stages of the Senate debate, I am writing once again to defend the public option and to urge other readers who feel as I do to call or e-mail Congress (http://www.contactingthecongress.org) to tell members to stop compromising the public option.

I also suggest calling the White House (202-456-1111) to ask President Obama not to sign any health care bill that does not provide the real change he promised.

Some claim a government-run option is socialist, but I can assure you that I, as well as every other universal health care supporter in my network, am pro-democracy. However, some forms of socialism within our capitalist society have to exist for the betterment of all: Public schools are open to all American children. Medicare and Social Security benefit all seniors who paid into the system. And our military defends and protects us all.

Our current health care system, however, is not available for all — at least not in terms of affordability. It is no longer affordable to me, even though I worked most of my adult life and just recently lost employer-subsidized benefits (for the third time). The individual health care plans are too expensive, provide less than desirable (and in many cases less than adequate) benefits, and offer ultimately no choice for policyholders.

While some fear our government will have too much control over health care, right now the insurance industry has too much control and will continue to hold all the power unless adequate reform takes place.

A public option is the key to this reform, as we cannot rely solely on market competition, which in this industry, has failed us for decades.

If greater competition in the private sector is what those opposed to the public option are offering, then why would insurance companies fear competing with a government plan they claim will be inferior to their own?

Why would they even think this option would lead to a single payer plan if they are offering what they claim the public wants?

Leaving regulation to nonprofit agencies in the private market is no substitute for a government-run option. This is especially true if these agencies operate like Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, which is currently listed as a nonprofit agency, in spite of the fact that its president and corporate executives receive bonuses totaling millions.

Any proposed backup plan would not be intended for use, because how bad would it have to get before elected officials would be willing to pull the so called "trigger?" Can't Congress see we are in a crisis now?

And a state opt-in provision is equivalent to saying, "We approved the plan, but we are not going to enforce it." This leaves individuals at the mercy of their state officials, in spite of the fact that they voted for federal lawmakers to fix this problem.

As for this latest Senate compromise, expanding Medicare won't help anyone under the age of 55, especially young college graduates who cannot find sufficient work. And if people cannot afford insurance offering minimal coverage, how are they going to afford a private plan equivalent to benefits received by Congress?

A better compromise would be for Congress members wanting less government to turn in their medical benefits and repurchase their plans, using only the average net middle-class income in their home states — minus food allotments and the average rent, mortgage, or tax rate. Maybe then they will get the point.

This leaves the only legitimate claim opponents have, which is the fact that even with a public option, we would still need to eliminate waste and abuse. But this is prominent in every corner of the health care industry, not just in Medicare.

Overall, this needs to be an ongoing effort, rather than a promised solution, and it will take time before we can see results. The public option, however, can provide immediate hope, and when combined with regulations, offers a real solution.

If the public option survives, it will not be because of Congress. It will be the result of determined individuals speaking out for all. So please make your phone calls and/or write your e-mails today.

MAUREEN TAGLIAFERRO
Middlesex

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