About two weeks ago I wrote about the public option. Around the time I was writing that, I started seeing some discussion of putting a “trigger” into any legislation that included a “public option”.
I could go off and spend a lot of time trying to explain what a “trigger”, but I’ll let Igor Volsky from Think Progress’ The Wonk Room handle that:
Democrats on the Finance Committee said Mr. Baucus was exploring a possible compromise. Under this proposal, the public plan would be created only if private insurance companies had not made meaningful, affordable coverage available to all Americans within several years.
In essence, if Senator Baucus and some Blue Dogs get their way, private insurers will have a couple of years to do what the market was supposed to do way back in the 1990’s, make their coverage affordable and competitive for consumers.
Senator Baucus, this trigger’s already been pulled.
Let me lay it out to you like this. If I, a self-employed single male who makes more than average for my education level (Source I fall under “Some College”) can’t afford to insure myself, partially because of pre-existing conditions, and partially because I just can’t afford it, then how can any individual who makes less than me?
The reality is, allowing individuals and companies to “buy in” to a healthcare plan that is administered like Medicare, or something similar, will greatly reduce the cost to the consumer and help provide access to people, like myself, who currently pay for regular checkups, etc. out of pocket, which works until you either get REALLY sick, or REALLY hurt.
This is where a lot of the cost to insured individuals comes in. When the uninsured get REALLY sick, or REALLY hurt, they often end up REALLY bankrupt. Over 60% of bankruptcies in the US are related to, or involve a great deal of debt due to medical expenses. 78% of those same people had some form of private health insurance.
When these bills don’t get paid, the doctors and hospitals have to make the money back somewhere. Eventually, that comes out of your pocket.
Further, healthcare costs are bankrupting our companies. Take GM for example
In dollars-and-cents terms, there was another reason the American car companies fell behind the rest of the world in their investments in technology and quality control: health care costs. All through the period of its decline, the U.S. auto industry was forced to spend sums on worker health insurance that were unmatched anywhere else in the industrialized world, because the United States was the only one without a government-sponsored health care system. (Source)
We don’t have time to wait for some arbitrary “trigger”, which could possibly be nothing more than a free pass to current insurers, to bring more affordable, portable, and transparent health insurance to our citizens. We need a solution now.
At the same time, there’s plenty of room for a discussion on what a “public option” plan should look like. It’s telling that Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the Blue Dog Caucus, supports a plan without any trigger. Clearly, Rep. Cooper, whom I have been critical of in the past, sees the benefit of public insurance for those who can either not afford private insurance, or those who wish to “opt in” to a federally sponsored plan with competitive rates.
In the end, there’s plenty of room for discussion, but people on all sides of the debate need to remember that the ultimate goal is to insure everyone. Over the coming weeks we’ll hear objections from insurers and providers. Many of these objections will focus on the minutae rather than the larger issue of providing affordable healthcare to everyone. In the end, that’s the only real argument they have any more. Americans are tired of suffering a death of 1000 cuts from the insurance industry. The tide has turned. As Nicholas Kristof writes in yesterday’s New York Times, This Time, We Won’t Scare. Hopefully, our legislators in DC won’t either.