Friday, June 5, 2009


A while back I posted a series of items being addressed by our new administration and across the blogosphere. While a lot of interesting comments and ideas were put forth, mostly we were all just killing time until the government made its move. And now, it seems we will soon have some answers.

There are many on the right who claim to be scared to death about the government “controlling” healthcare. I think what should be much scarier is the results of this recent study conducted jointly by Harvard and Ohio University.

“Medical bills are behind more than 60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies. More than 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts.”

And for those who questioned what President Obama had in mind for healthcare reform, some details have been forthcoming. But, to be accurate, it must be pointed out that the president isn’t actually in “control” of healthcare reform; Congress is. There are committees in the Senate and the House trying to hammer out bills and our president has been letting them work.

But he did send a letter to Congress outlining what he would like to see included. Unsurprisingly, most all Republicans dismissed his letter out of hand. And some on the far left aren’t too happy, either. But I think this could be a sensible approach to ensuring affordable insurance for all. The article is HERE, but the thrust is a basic public plan to co-exist with private plans. People would still have a choice but those who cannot currently afford health insurance or are out of work will still have access to health care. Seems to me a sick population is far more costly than a healthy one.


  1. At a bare minimum this is a step in the right direction. Healthcare reform, for this round, must at least lay the groundwork for more meaningful reform down the road. I think Obama's proposal will definitely accomplish that much, but it remains to be seen if more is possible. I haven't followed this debate that closely, but the question I have is how will the public plan be handicapped? If it's too good, won't everyone want to buy into it, thereby running the private sector out of business? The healthcare industry is going to put up quite a fight over this, and, as Paul Krugman pointed out today, we should not trust what they say.

  2. The impasse in the current debate centers on this:

    A public plan that would compete with private insurers is opposed by nearly all Republicans (…) Opponents say private insurers could not compete with a public plan that didn't have to make a profit. They argue that private health plans would end up going out of business, leaving only an entirely government-run health care system.

    As the saying goes, “Fool me once - shame you; fool me twice - shame on me.” These were the same arguments put forth when the Clintons tried to reform health care 15 years ago. Private insurers promised to bring down costs if reform attempts were dropped. Indeed, reform was ABANDONED and, within a year, costs jumped another 5.6% … more than double the base inflationary rate. My point: Industry does not reform itself but merely clings tenaciously to protect their franchises.

    When I was living abroad (London in the 1980s and Paris in the 1990s), I had a mix of public and private health plans, so I know this “straw man” argument is patently false. When Republicans extol the virtues of competition but refuse to consider the public option, they are at their most hypocritical. Do they honestly believe they can fool us again!

  3. At this point I'll take any reform, any at all.
    8pus, yes the right wing rhetoric gets pretty tiresome, especially when there is much global evidence that private/public plans can and do work.

  4. Public/private plans are recipes for corruption. The private company in charge of whatever overbills the government. In return, the government worker charged with overseeing the private contractor gets a high paying job with private contractor. Private contractor donates big bucks to elected officials that decide who gets contracts.

    The only way this works is single payer health insurance. Costs are cut because health care providers only deal with one entity as opposed to God knows how many health insurance companies and HMOs there are. Each one with a different set of rules, deductibles and copayments.

    I have thought that President Obama is pandering on this to republicans by touting public/private. Thiis issue is too important to America for pandering to people that are only interested in the profits of their big money benefactors.

  5. In truth, Oh Mostly Kind and Gentle One, I would prefer the single payer option too but, as Rocky says, we will be lucky if we get any kind of health reform at all.

    I don't necessarily see a public/private hybrid as a recipe for corruption, any more than several private companies competing in the same marketplace, as long as the books are kept separate and there is no incestuousness. In theory, a public entity would operate cheaper than the private entity, and the competition between them would drive costs down across the board.

    In England and France, primary health care resides in the public sector as a single payer system. Private insurance is available as supplementary coverage. Totally private primary care is available too ... mainly for expats and other permanent residents who don't qualify.

  6. Life is full of compromises and so I'll take what I can get because right now I have no health insurance and that is a dangerous game for someone my age.

  7. Great post rockync. With so many millions of Americans without health care, I don't understand how any serious person could oppose a reform of our whole system.

    I hope Mr. Obama succeeds in getting something done--and soon.

  8. I believe something will be done regarding health care because too many forces are lining up in favor of doing something. Even insurance, quite aside from actual care, has long since become unaffordable for millions of people and just barely manageable for millions more. The downturn in the economy has made lots of so-called middle-class people aware of just how vulnerable they are. That makes for an untenable situation.

    Health is a vital aspect of life, and any health care access and delivery system that allows people to be kicked when they're down needs reforming.

    It would be ridiculous for us as a society to expect extremely advanced medical procedures to become dirt cheap. And since care is already expensive and likely to remain that way, the key thing is to make sure everyone has permanent access to good care. No more "pre-existing conditions" or other uncivil policies on the part of insurers, at the very least.

  9. well put, dino. I always look forward to your intelligent perspectives.


We welcome civil discourse from all people but express no obligation to allow contributors and readers to be trolled. Any comment that sinks to the level of bigotry, defamation, personal insults, off-topic rants, and profanity will be deleted without notice.