Monday, August 17, 2009

Obama Administration confused on Public Option

On the Sunday morning talk show circuit Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius commented on CNN that President Obama’s health care plan may be changing as the public option “is not the essential element”. Or is it? Even though the headlines across the land quip Secretary Sebelius it appears the White House is already back peddling. Linda Douglass, White House Health Reform Communications Director, released a statement saying, “Nothing has changed. The president has always said that what is essential is that health-insurance reform must lower costs, ensure that there are affordable options for all Americans and it must increase choice and competition in the health-insurance market. He believes the public option is the best way to achieve those goals.”

While Secretary Sebelius was pushing the conversation away from the public option, Sen. Conrad elaborated on Fox News Sunday that the president does not have the votes in the Senate to pass reform with a public option in it. Sen. Conrad has been pushing, a bipartisan approach, Co-operative option to increasing competition and providing affordable health care for all. While Sen. Conrad’s Co-Op option is more aligned with traditional Co-Op’s, Sen. Schumer has another vision of how a health insurance Co-Op would work.

Sen. Schumer is looking to have the Co-Op be run and subsidized by the government and include health care plans that were chosen by the government. In essence Sen. Schumer’s plan is no more than a public option organized a bit differently. According to the New York Times, the backers of a public option are outspending non-public option supports 3 to 1. A public option would be the death to privately held insurance.

The current House bill calls for companies to provide health insurance that is at least 80% as good as the public option or face a penalty of 8.5%. In our global economy how are large companies to compete with their counterparts around the world if they are faced with a possible 8.5% penalty for not keeping up with government run health care? They can’t and will not. Americans will see companies, albeit slowly, stripping away health care as a benefit the company offers. It makes sense too. With a public option available, where is the competitive advantage to offer a benefit that becomes too cumbersome to maintain and really is not needed since it is available for “free”?

No matter which side of this debate you fall on, make sure you get out to have your voice heard. Don’t rely on the sensationalism news reports to dictate your view of those for or against the president’s plan for health care. Get out to a town hall meeting and find out first hand. Call your member of Congress and learn of their position while voicing yours.