Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Let Them Know We Want the Public Option

Yes, it's your friendly neighborhood noodge again, this time urging you to tell your Senators you support their efforts to put the public insurance option on the health care reform agenda. Here are the people to call if you live in the state of NY:

Senator Charles Schumer
Phone: 202-224-6542

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Phone: 202-224-4451

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, the public option is a government-sponsored insurance plan, like Medicare, which would operate side-by-side with the current private insurance options. This would enable people to choose either the public or private insurance option and would force private insurance plans to compete with the public plan. Predictably, private insurers have been arguing that a public plan would not compete fairly with private insurance. When countered on this claim, they claim the public plan would make everyone's health insurance worse; as a fallback argument, they're claiming that the problems with the existing system (if that's the word for it) will be solved if we just institute more stringent regulation of the insurance industry--in other words, "please don't make us compete with a public plan."

And here we see one of the most fundamental problems with the current system--the insurance industry, which functions as an (interested) arbiter between doctors and their patients, is concerned primarily with their own profits, not the health of patients--which is why they've constructed a massive bureaucracy devoted to avoiding payment of medical claims. And this fact, in case you hadn't noticed, stands as one of the clearest refutations possible of the idea that markets, left to their own devices, will always produce optimal results for all participants. The current system, after all, is utterly dysfunctional for a large part of the population of the U.S. (we humans lacking the information and other resources available to the insurers), but it works like a charm for the insurance companies--which is why they're working as hard as possible to find a way to kill the public option.

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