The form of health insurance matters

by Linda Beale

Linda Beale writes at ataxingmatter:

Health Care Reform or a boondoggle for private insurers?

The Baucus proposal for health care “reform” doesn’t include a public option. And the Senate Finance Committee voted this afternoon-by 15 to 8–to reject the Rockefeller proposal to add a public option “community choice health plan’. See Hershenson, Senate Panel Rejects Pair of Public Options in Health Plan, NY Times, Sept. 29, 2009.

Kent Conrad, Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Thomas Carper–those are purported Democrats who voted against Rockefeller’s public option. Conrad and Lincoln voted against both versions put forward today. They need to think about whom they are serving, because it isn’t the ordinary people of this country. Sure, the Republicans are going to claim that any public option is “socialized medicine”. So what? Those naysayers want to preserve the status quo system of high prices and low coverage that allows the health industry to reap “rent” profits no matter what the effect on the vast majority of ordinary citizens. Democrats are supposed to stand for something different–for using government in the service of the people. They should be out on the stump, explaining to people why public provision of education (public schools, public universities), medicine (medicare, medicaid, and a new public option here), and fire and police protection are not issues of “socialism vs capitalism” but of workable regimes that serve the people versus nonworkable regimes that permit a very few, very large corporate players (and their managers and owners) to hold a near-monopoly over services that ought to be available to everyone at a reasonable price: this is so because we are a democratic society that believes in government working for the good of all and not just for the good of the wealthy.

I simply don’t buy the excuses. Republicans and Democrats voted for irresponsible tax cuts under Bush and for irresponsible deregulation of financial institutions under Clinton and Bush. We have the awful result of an economy that serves the wealthy now much better than it serves ordinary Americans, at a cost that will be borne by ordinary Americans in terms of lost job opportunities, lower standard of living, and declines in health care coverage. I am becoming convinced that this Congress is too beholden to private money to make long-term decisions to benefit the public–whether on climate change or health care reform.

So where do we go now? The House needs to stand firm for the public option, and perhaps the Senate itself, not the Finance Committee, will see the light. We cannot simply mandate coverage–providing a huge boon to private insurers in terms of getting a new captive audience of insureds paying premiums–without also providing a public option that will allow us to move someday, if it proves to work better than private insurance, to a medicare-like system for all.