Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Public Option

The Young Turks has an excellent video commentary (below) on the public option for health care reform. Although arguing (unconvincingly, inevitably) against single payer, the video would be worth reviewing even if doing so would not enable you to say, proudly, that you got your argument from someone named Cent Uygur.

Uygur notes that a public option would be advantageous because of lower administrative (marketing and overhead) costs; lack of a profit motive; leverage in negotiations, such as with pharmaceutical companies; and simple, plain choice ("just an option"). He states, accurately, that the GOP's opposition ultimately boils down to "this option is too good." As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, seemingly without embarassment or sense of irony, contended in May on Fox News Sunday (emphasis mine):

What he — what he really wants to do is create a government plan, and we all know where that leads. None of the private plans will be able to compete, and you'll soon have a single-payer European-type system.

In that appearance, McConnell also, dishonestly, claimed of the public option "Well, that would mean a government plan that would inevitably put the government between you and your doctor, and there would be no more private insurance."

In the public option, as Uygur points out, government does not come between the patient and the doctor or intrude upon the doctor-patient relationship. It is not a government plan, not part of a government system, but merely public insurance. An individual would be able to get health care and pay a premium (to the government) to do so. That would enable private plans to compete, even with private health care in this nation as inefficient as it is.

Still, the GOP squawks. Uygur appears unsurprised, presumably because he has figured out "the Republican Party is not interested in ideology.... They're not interested in conservative principles. They're interested in the money.....and they get the money from the private insurance companies. The Republican Party has become the long arm of the lobbyists."

This means nothing much has changed. As Jonathan Chait wrote in 2007 about the program launched by then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay and GOP plutocrat Grover Norquist in 1995 following the Republican takeover of the House

It's not just a difference in degree but a difference in kind. Democrats accept the prevailing political culture by which lobbyists would cultivate ties with both sides. They do not expect total loyalty, nor do the grant it. The depredations produced by the K Street Project- government treating lobbyists as full partners, not merely interests with a seat at the table- are unique Republican innovations.

The other party is, admittedly, not incurably altruistic. Still, in most instances the Democrats resistant to a public plan are those relatively comfortable with a disturbingly close relationship with health care lobbyists. That is proving an increasingly difficult obstacle for the mainstream of the Democratic Party- and the mainstream of the American public, supportive of a public option- to overcome.

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