The public option: What is it good for?


I hate this time of the year, and it’s not just because the end of daylight savings time [for me] marks the onset of winter, with it’s colder temperatures and much fewer daylight hours (although it certainly exacerbates the problem), but because, as I see it, there is nothing to be happy about, especially when it comes to the debates on health care reform and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And in the case of health care reform, I’m not even sure what we’re debating.

Instead of trying to come up with real and effective solutions to our health care problems, our representatives have resorted to deciding between maintaining the same flawed US health care system, one that has left so many people in this country without adequate access to health care, and which places the burden of ensuring the health of Americans on the backs of US business, or maintaining that same flawed health care system, but modifying it slightly by adding one more health insurance company, this time run by the government, that will supposedly bring competition to the health insurance industry, and bring down health care costs.

How stupid is that? Reducing health insurance costs, will no more reduce health care costs, than reducing car insurance rates will reduce the price of cars. Health insurance and health care [like car insurance and cars] are not the same. They are totally different, despite being related.

Sure we can reduce or eliminate the profits of health insurers, and bring down the cost of health insurance slightly, but those benefits will be short lived, since it does nothing to address the real problem of an increased demand for health care, due to an aging population, and a fee-for-service health care system, that encourages fraud, and the performance of unnecessary procedures, tests and treatments. And the more we try to reduce health insurance costs by squeezing the savings from health care professionals, the greater the likelihood for more fraud and the performance of unnecessary procedures, tests and treatments.

Regardless of whether any of the health care proposals before congress right now include a public option, be it an opt out, opt in, negotiated rates or even a trigger, it won’t be reform.

We’ll still be left with all the same problems. Plus a significant portion of society will still be left without adequate access to health care, and even worse, nothing, not even the measures that are of benefit, e.g. no exclusion for pre-existing conditions, takes effect until 2013.

So what’s to happen in the interim. What are those who can’t afford health insurance now, or can’t buy it at all because of a pre-existing condition do for the next 3 years? Are they just to be told, as the Republicans have so subtly put it, “die quickly”?

This is just smoke and mirrors from our elected representatives, to make us think they’re doing something, when in reality, all they’re doing is putting off the inevitable for another time. And in the mean time millions of Americans will die, and suffer needlessly while our elected representatives sit on their hands and do absolutely nothing.

Then there’s the debate over the war in Afghanistan and whether we should put more troops in harms way, and risk the deaths of thousands more of our youngest and bravest to fight an unwinnable war.

I find it ironic there seems to be no problem finding the $100 billion per year needed to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but when it comes to ensuring everyone in the US has adequate access to health care, we can’t seem to find that same $100 billion per year.

I wonder how long it will take before our representatives come to the conclusion there isn’t enough money to pay for the health care of our military veterans?

Of course maybe there’s a hidden agenda here. If we can kill off more US soldiers, we’ll reduce the demand for health care, and bring down health care costs that way.

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