| Now that it looks like a public option is on the table - according to Jim Messina at a recent fundraiser in Missoula, he said that the president supports and is campaigning for a public option - it's time to pay attention to the details of what that public option might look like.
Jhwygirl linked to a Robert Reich blog post, in which he warned us that the insurance industry and Big Pharm, etc & co, are gearing up to kill the public option by giving Americans a watered-down and ineffectual version. To wit:
One of their proposals is to break up the public option into small pieces under multiple regional third-party administrators that would have little or no bargaining leverage. A second is to give the public option to the states where Big Pharma and Big Insurance can easily buy off legislators and officials, as they've been doing for years. A third is bind the public plan to the same rules private insurers have already wangled, thereby making it impossible for the public plan to put competitive pressure on the insurers.
Obviously, none of these types of public plans are acceptable.
Here's what we need:
We need a public plan that puts competitive pressure on private insurers to give better service to its customers. That means offering more competitive prices, and paying out claims.
We need a public plan that's good enough so that any of us can choose to purchase a public plan without sacrificing quality. That means, it shouldn't be burdened by paperwork or limited to cover only a fraction of health care providers.
We need a public plan that isn't simply a holding place for the rejects of private insurance. That is, a public plan should not be a de facto subsidy for private insurers. You know the game: they cover the healthy folks, and taxpayers pay for medical costs of those that are sick.
Max Baucus, Chair of Senate Finance (now exactly why does the Senate Finance Committee have so much say over health care?) hasn't shown his cards but staffers tell me he's more than happy to sign on to any one of these. But Baucus is waiting for more support from his colleagues, and none of the three proposals has emerged as the leading candidate for those who want to kill the public option without showing they're killing it.
The good news is that Ted Kennedy supports a full public option, details of his health plan were released recently. The bad news is that it looks like Olympia Snowe is gearing up to implement a "compromise" that would have a full public option kick in years from now, "but it would be triggered only if insurance companies fail to bring down healthcare costs and expand coverage in he meantime."
Not acceptable for a couple of reasons. First, we need good health care coverage yesterday, not years down the road. Second, you and I both know those kinds of triggers are gamed to favor existing institutions. Big Pharma and private insurers will win the battle of the Trigger.
Of course, we'll have to see what proposals are being batted around for a public option. Keep your eyes open, folks. We need a full public option.