I had high hopes for our nation when Obama won the Presidential election on a platform of change and progress, but they're fading fast.
One area in major need of change is our health care system. We spend far more money than any other country on health care - more than $2.2 trillion annually - yet costs continue to rise alarmingly, threatening to consume our economy. And yet, the quality of our health care is worse than in countries that spend far less. Everyone recognizes that the current system based on private insurers is broken and needs to be fixed - but there the agreement ends.
NBC reported recently that support for the health care bill that Congress has been working on for months is rapidly declining; just 32 percent say it's a good idea. And for good reason: what's left of the 2,074 page bill is not worth fighting for. The bill has been gutted of any meaningful reforms, and the public option has been eliminated. What's left is a bill which will mandate Americans insure themselves with the same companies whose policies caused the health care problem in the first place.
During the electoral debates over a year ago, all three top Democratic candidates - Clinton, Edwards and Obama - recognized that health care was in dire need of an overhaul, and all three proposed plans that called for something akin to the public option. At the time, polls showed that more than three-quarters of Americans support such a public option, as did the majority of doctors and small-business owners.
However, the public option has drawn intense opposition from most Republicans and some moderate Democrats who fear a government takeover of health care. But such fears are unfounded. A public option is not socialism. And it doesn't equal rationed care, long waiting lines, or limited choice.
A public option is simply a government-run health insurance plan that is an alternative, competing with private insurance - just as public colleges compete with private schools. It would mean that, in addition to the private plans in existence now, Americans could choose a public plan if they wish. If the public option doesn't provide the services you want or costs more than a private plan, you choose the private plan.