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It's an Option, Stupid

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mary Shaw     Permalink
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Republicans and others who oppose a public health care option say they do not want the government "interfering" with their health care. And that is fine -- for them. With a public option in place, those people can ignore it, and they can continue to spend their money on traditional health "insurance" from for-profit corporations, allowing those companies instead to be the ones to interfere with their health care. That is why it is called an option. You do not have to subscribe to the public option if you do not want to. Option = choice. (No, relax, it is not that kind of choice.)

But those people do not speak for me, and they do not speak for the 57 percent of congressional constituents who told a recent Washington Post/ABC poll that they want a public option.

Another right-wing argument is that the competition from a government-run system could put the for-profit "insurance" corporations out of business. This argument is equally faulty for a couple of reasons:

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First of all, aren't Republicans traditionally the biggest cheerleaders for free competition in the marketplace? Now, suddenly, they are afraid of some honest competition (emphasis on "honest")?

Second, just as the public school system has not put private schools out of business, and just as FedEx and UPS aren't threatened by the U.S. Postal Service, a public health insurance option does not mean that CIGNA, Aetna, and Blue Cross will necessarily disappear. If those who oppose the public option will instead stick with the private insurers that they care so much about (option, remember?), those private insurers will continue to have clients and will survive to whatever extent the marketplace determines is merited. Again, it's free enterprise, folks -- and may the best option win (emphasis on "option" and on "best").

Still another argument -- a biggie for the greedy right -- concerns the price of implementing and maintaining a public health care program. Apparently, we can afford to spend hundreds of billions of dollars -- nearing a trillion -- on unnecessary and poorly managed wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we can't spend money here at home to keep Americans healthy and alive. Go figure.

The truth is that it will cost us much more in the long run -- in dollars (a trillion), new businesses, jobs, and human lives -- if we continue to have no public option, as calculated by contributor Devilstower at the Daily Kos website a while back.

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So, all things considered, it appears that there is no good argument -- logically or rationally speaking -- to oppose the public option.

But, of course, logic and reason (let alone compassion) are not what makes Washington tick.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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