The good news this evening is that the Senate Finance Committee twice today shot down attempts to include a government-run insurance option in one particular health care reform measure currently working its way through committee.
The bad news, however, is that the plan in question is not “middle of the road” as NBC and the mainstream media suggests. Make no mistake — the Democrats still want government control of health care, be it through a government-funded and -run co-op structure, through the type of “public option” shot down twice today, or through some yet-to-come program designed as a catch all for Americans subject to an individual mandate. Regardless of the end result, the primary reason for the removal of the much-maligned “public option” in the Baucus bill is just that — the “public option,” by that name, has been much maligned. In reality, government-run health care is alive and well.
Besides, Chuck Schumer and others simply won’t let that public option go. It will be brought up on the Senate floor, or behind closed doors in the process of combining bills once legislation passes the House and Senate.
In the meantime, people need to know that even without a nominal public option, the health care reform measure working its way through the Senate Finance Committee is far from toothless. This plan will still cut approximately $500 billion from Medicare, about equivalent in size to just not funding Medicare next year at all. The plan will still levy a hefty tax penalty–$1,900 and up–against any who ignore the individual mandate and refuse to obtain coverage, and provide for jail time for any who ignore the tax (the committee actually defeated an amendment allowing states to opt out of the individual mandate). The plan will still increase the tax burden on small and medium-sized businesses and large manufacturers alike, an additional hardship which will inevitably cost American jobs. And the plan will still mean increased costs and taxes for the average American family, people like you and like me who still debate which bill to pay first and which to ignore because there isn’t enough money to go around.
If we do health care reform, we need to do it right. We should be facilitating a free-market approach to health care, not stifling it. We should be working to make billing and record-keeping practices more uniform and easy to understand in order to make health care workers more efficient, not politicizing which records are maintained and which are not. Whatever we do, we need doctors and patients to take a primary role, not bureaucrats. We need to save what makes our system the envy of the world, and do what’s necessary to make it better — not scrap everything out of concern for matters of social justice and other emotional deficiencies.