Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Fixing Health Care Does Not Require a "Bi-Partisan" Bill -- It Does Require a Public Health Insurance Option

Robert Creamer:

The private insurance industry and its spokespeople in Congress are frantically making the argument that for health care reform to last and have the support of the American people, Congress must pass a "bi-partisan" health care reform plan.

Of course you never heard a word about "bi-partisanship" from the insurance industry or Republicans when they passed the notorious "Medicare Part D" prescription drug plan in 2003. Back then, they froze Democrats out of all negotiations, and passed the bill on a 220 to 215 vote in the House (with only 16 Democrats voting yes). In fact, Medicare Part D would be their idea of a "good" health care "reform": taxpayer subsidies for private insurers with no competition from a public plan. And if we went that route, the results of health care reform would look pretty much like the results of Part D as well - no cost control, giant gaps in coverage, and confusing options for consumers.

Now that the political tide has turned, and last year's economic collapse has given voters a fresh lesson in the consequences of turning public policy over to corporate CEOs and insurance giants like AIG, the Republicans and insurance companies have had an eleventh-hour conversion to the benefits of "bipartisanship" when it comes to health care reform.

It's no surprise then that in the current debate, the advocates of this position have made it clear that, to them, "bi-partisanship" means one thing: Americans should be denied the choice of a public health insurance option like Medicare. Their problem is that while a public health insurance option may not have bi-partisan support in Congress, it has big time bi-partisan support among the voters.

In fact, of course, it won't matter one whit to average Americans whether the bill passed by Congress is "bi-partisan." What will matter is that:

* Something gets passed.

* It provides health care for everyone.

* It puts the brakes on skyrocketing health care costs.

In the current context, there is no way to provide these things without also providing us with the choice of a public health insurance plan that would compete with private insurance companies, and keep them honest.

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