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Running the Public Option

In American-style football, a quarterback who "runs the option" receives the ball, runs either right or left (accompanied by another offensive player), and, depending on the opposing defense's strategy, either laterals the ball to his accompanying player to avoid a tackle or keeps the ball and advances it himself.  Not all quarterbacks can pull this off, but when executed effectively, the "option run" is a useful tool in the QB's arsenal.

It isn't hard to draw a parallel between football and the health care debate raging in Washington.  As House and Senate leaders hammer out health care reform legislation for floor debate in their respective chambers, the decision of whether to include a public option (in which the federal government creates a public health insurance plan financed by premiums to compete against private plans) has taken center stage.

What is unclear, however, is who is calling the shots.  Is it President Obama?  Is it Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?  Is it  the House Democratic leadership?  Is it the moderates who want to support health care reform but are wary of taking votes that they find hard to justify to finger-wagging constituents at raucous town hall meetings?  Or is it the American people themselves?

And which public option (if any) will prevail?  A "robust" public option, as championed by the House majority leadership?  One that allows states to "opt out," as Senator Reid has advocated?  One that contains some sort of "trigger," as Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has said she could support?  Will the House and Senate approach the public option the same way, or vote on different versions?

Word on the field is that the bills will soon be introduced and debated by each chamber.  But until the game is over, it is hard to predict the winners and losers.

Posted 10-28-2009 11:09 AM by Sarah Owen


Leibowitz, Mike wrote re: Running the Public Option
on 11-03-2009 11:51 AM

They can give the states an "opt out" or they can create a "trigger" or give whatever name they want it.  All routes lead to their goal of a single payer system, because as a participant in private market insurance, the government topples the level playing field.  The government can run the public option at a loss indefinitely and they make the rules.  This will eventually drive private insurers out of business.

Giving an "opt out" is not really an option at all because even if a state were to opt out, the tax payers of that state would still be subsidizing the health care of the people in the other 49 states, in addition to their own policies.

Health insurance needs to be truly reformed by increasing competition, with the government's role limited to enforcement of laws (at the state level) against unfair or predatory practices in the industry.  We can start by removing limitations on where policies can be offered, allowing them to be sold across state lines, and by eliminating state mandated provisions.  This would give everyone immediate access to more than 1300 plans and allow them to choose what's right for them.

We can eliminate health insurance as an employer benefit, and make people shop around.  This will drastically lower costs.  Employers however can establish saving/spending accounts that make people responsible for what they pay for prescriptions and non-catastrophic care.  We do all of this now when shopping for life insurance and auto insurance.  The same should be done for health insurance.

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