Reforming America's broken health care system is not an insurmountable task. Unfortunately, a significant barrier stands in the way of enacting appropriate legislation; a clear conflict of interest that faces our elected representatives in Congress. In addressing this issue, this Congress must decide whether it will stand up for the interests of the American people or bend to the influences of the lobbyists and special interest groups.
More than 70% of Americans want some type of public option that will provide competition for the privatized medical insurance industry to bring rapidly escalating costs under control. President Obama has made health care reform his #1 objective and he strongly supports a public option. The Republicans, except for a handful, will fight against such an outcome with all their might to protect corporate interests as they always do. Business as usual for the health care industry has now become unsustainable. Therefore, we must have a revolutionary breakthrough that will provide health care for all Americans.
At the center of the ongoing debate and discussion is the Senate Finance Committee, led by the Chairman, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, of Montana with Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa as the ranking GOP committee member both are major recipients of health care industry campaign contributions. Baucus wasted no time in taking a single payer option off the table and refusing to spend any time even discussing it. He also refuses to support any kind of public option. This is quite troubling.
Right now it appears that appropriate legislation could be enacted if only the Congressional Democrats would show their loyalty to their president, and the American people who elected them. But, as is often the case with Democrats, they are not standing together on this critical issue. A small group of about ten conservatives Democrats remain less than supportive.
Ed Tubbs, in an article dated June 27, 2009, entitled "My letter to Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Exec", identifies these Democrats who are either against a public option or seem to be leaning in that direction: Max Baucus (D-MT), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Arlen Specter (D-PA). It's noteworthy that almost all of them, with the exception of Specter and Bayh, are from Southern or Western states that have relatively small populations.
This is one of the problems with our democracy and the Senate. The large majority of people that have problems relating to health care coverage live in America's most populous states. The question is; will a handful of states with small populations and their senators determine the fate of one of America's most critical issues? If they do then that will be a travesty of immense proportions.
Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) made an astounding statement recently. Conrad, who is proposing a compromise proposal to establish member-owned "co-ops" instead of a government-sponsored public option, stated that it doesn't matter which option is right or wrong but, rather, which one has the votes. Since this debate process is in its early stages, it most certainly does matter which option is right and which is wrong. Does he not understand that His job and the job of his fellow congressional representatives is to determine through honest and thoughtful discussion which one is right for the interests of the American people, not which can merely get the votes?
Many doctors are now fed up with the tons of paperwork and the myriad of difficulties involved with dealing with the insurance companies. But, while the majority of doctors favor some form of universal health care for all Americans, they are not yet convinced that either a single payer or a public option is best. They just don't know at this point. But a growing number are leaning in that direction. The group Physicians for a National Health Program, a non-profit research and education organization of 16,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals, has issued "The Physicians' Proposal" which states, "We endorse a fundamental change in America's health care the creation of a comprehensive National Health Insurance Program. Such a program - which in essence would be an expanded and improved version of Medicare would cover every American for all necessary medical care."
Even though it reportedly has the most potential for cost savings and efficiency based on Medicare's very low administrative costs, the single payer system has, unfortunately, now been pronounced dead by Congress and Obama. They will not even discuss it. Mr. Obama, in town hall meetings, repeats the same tired old, "If we were starting from scratch" mantra. So, sad to say, our only hope for any kind of reform seemingly lies with the public option. But will even that be possible with this Congress?
President Obama is witnessing the extreme pressures that lobbyists and special interests groups are exerting on this Congress to try to derail any meaningful reform of our extremely faulted system of health care. Mr. Obama needs to counter that pressure with a solid message of his own to Congress; that he will not sign any legislation that does not include at least a public option.
The current U.S. Congress may well be the most ethically-challenged in the history of America. There are, certainly, some honest members, but they are a definite minority. Corporate lobbyists and special interest groups hold great power over Congress. The founders and architects that gave life to our democracy; Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and others, would be in a state of shock and disbelief if they were able to watch the actions of this Congress.
President Obama needs to give up his endless quest for bipartisanship on this issue. Republicans in Congress have one thing in mind and that is to oppose everything he tries to do with every tactic at their disposal. He must use the power of the White House bully pulpit to convince the American people of his total commitment to a public option. He needs to mobilize Americans to pressure those legislators who refuse to do the right thing for America - that is to enact effective health care legislation that includes a public option.
America is standing at yet one more critical crossroads. A Canadian government official recently stated, "We Canadians understand that we have a moral obligation to take care of all our fellow citizens and that is exactly what we will do." It is now time that we Americans, our president and our Congress accept that same moral obligation and responsibility by vowing to take care of all our fellow citizens.