Thursday, September 17, 2009

Christina and Me: A Public Option Primer

I had this delightful exchange with a Facebook friend today:
As you may have noticed, I am young, but I have become increasingly interested in the Health Care Crisis. I have a ton of questions, but I will only bother you for a few. Is the public option that you are for, the same thing as the Free Choice-Health Care for Individuals thing that I keep hearing about? I am getting some information from my Rep's web site, as well as Rep. John Shadegg's web site. Are these the same ideas, or are they different? I hate to say this, but I am utterly confused! Your help is much appreciated, Mary.
Here is my reply:
Hey Christina. No apologies needed for your age. Your interest and questions are very welcome.

The free choice thingy you've read about is very different from a public health insurance option that many people support (both Democrats and Republicans). Republican politicians want free choice for corporations, not for individuals. I would call what they advocate "Wall-Street-run health care" (that leads to neither health nor care). They want to maintain the status quo (keep things the way they are), which is working only for the health insurance industry and the very wealthy.

Of course, their descriptions of their positions would differ dramatically from mine. They would call what I advocate "government-run" health care, because in spite of the fact that they themselves are part of the government, they think anything the government does is bad. So they are unapologetic when government fails, even when they're responsible for that failure, because it confirms their belief that government is always a problem and never a solution.

I believe that government should do what it can to help people, because I believe we're stronger collectively than we are individually. Of course, we won't always get everything exactly right. But we can always work toward improving things so that more and more people are helped rather than hurt by the system.

I hope this helps. Keep reading as much as you can from all sides, and determine to make up your own mind and not let anyone from any side tell you what to think. Listen to your heart. It will not lead you astray.

Many blessings,


P.S. I love your question. Would you mind very much if I posted it (and my answer) on my blog? If you don't mind, do you want me to use your name (I'd use only your first name) or would you prefer that it be anonymous? If you'd rather I didn't post it, no worries.
Christina's reply:
All that would be fine. My first name would be ok. One more quick one. One guy I listened to, Whyden, I think, did say that he wanted individual choice. He even emphasized it. What about that?
And my reply:
Do you mean Senator Ron Wyden?

The idea of giving people more choices is a good one. But I also think it's really important that one of the choices available to anyone who wants it be a public insurance option. If all the choices you are given are lousy, it's hardly much of an improvement.

The trouble with the private health insurance industry is that it is profit-driven. Health care shouldn't be about profits. Human beings are not commodities.

Health care should be about health and care. A public insurance option would not have the high overhead costs of private profit-driven health insurance companies. A public insurance option would not be beholden to stockholders. It would be beholden to the public.

Does this help?


Christina's reply:
Ah yes, very helpful. I think I am more of the public insurance gal. Can you feed me more information on this? Thanks for all your help, Mary. I really appreciate it.
I pointed Christina toward Robert Reich's good explanation of the public insurance option:

I also pointed her toward the excellent cartoon guide to health care reform:

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