I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted something on here, but it’s not because I don’t have anything to say. It’s more of a “What will be the first post after a hiatus?” problem that I often have. But I’ve figured that this is an important enough post to fit that bill, without being overly controversial.
So, there’s been a lot of discussion lately about health care reform and all the different ways it might happen, as well as all different bad things it might do to your grandma, but I’m not going to talk about those things. Not directly, anyway.
What I am going to talk about, specifically, is my understanding of what a “public option” is (or should be) and why I support it. But I’m not going to just say that I support it and leave it at that. I’m going to provide you with some information as to why you should support it, too. There may be some data that is not quite right, because I’m not an expert, but the general point I’m trying to make should be the take-away message. (If I make a mistake, by all means correct me, but don’t go ranting about death panels and Nazis, please.)
First, let me start by describing the current health care situation, overall, in the United States. Basically, whoever has health insurance (either because they bought it outright, or because their employer provides it for them) has access to medical attention. That means they have access to specialists in whatever area their problem may be: if you have a brain tumor, you go to a brain surgeon; if you have a bunion, you go to a podiatrist; if you have bipolar disorder, you go to a psychiatrist. Based on what insurance you have, you may be limited to a specific list of doctors that your insurance covers. That’s fine. That’s part of the market. But, the bottom line is, you have that list.
People without health insurance, and without a high income or savings, do not have a list. They can’t go to a specialist in the area they need help with. So they have two choices: go to the emergency room or a clinic, where they mostly only have doctors who practice general or emergency medicine, and where you are served on a first-come, first-served basis (i.e. you wait for a really long time on really long lines); or, do nothing and live with whatever pain there may be.
This is not a good way to live. In fact, it is quite counterproductive and detrimental to society. If you have people with chronic pain that they can’t pay to get rid of, their workload will be lower. If their workload is lower, they can’t contribute as much to economy, because they don’t get paid enough to afford expensive things like houses or new cars. So they live at poverty or near-poverty levels, where other, more well-off taxpayers have to pay for many of the services that support them; besides the emergency room care, there’s welfare and increased crime rates, too.
The idea behind the public option for health care reform is to correct this problem, to fill the gap between those who can afford health care—and, thus, get it—and those can’t—and, thus, don’t. That is what the public option is all about. It provides free or competitively subsidized health care for those who would not otherwise be able to afford it. Here’s the thing, though: There’s no promise it’s gonna be great health care. In all likelihood, it won’t be that good at all. But not good a whole lot better than none. But it doesn’t just help the people that need health care and can’t afford it.
Oh, no. It helps the more-well-off taxpayers, too. Sure, your taxes may go up a bit to pay for the new health care system, depending on how they decide to pay for it. But you’ll get other benefits that will out-weigh that tax increase in the long run. More people will be healthier, because they won’t wait and suffer until the pain just gets so unbearable that they have no choice but to seek expensive health care that they can’t afford. Healthier people means healthier workers, which means more workers, which means better economy, which means better country. It also means that you, as the privileged person with health insurance, will get all the perks of having that upper status. You may get an air-conditioned room in a hospital, versus one without air conditioning for the person with the public option; you may get a private bathroom, versus the communal one in the hallway where you have to walk with your butt hanging out for all to see; you may get a better expert in the area of what ails you, versus one who’s less of an expert (but an expert nonetheless).
And don’t think that I’m just making this up off the top of my head, because I’m not. This is what actually happens in countries that have socialized medicine, including two great friends of the United States: Canada and the United Kingdom. How do I know this? By reading first-hand accounts from Mike Hoye and Sarah Lyall, respectively.
Which is why I think a public option is a good idea. The United States needs to get with the times and provide health care to all of its citizens. Else, what does that say about the heart of the country? That it doesn’t care about the health of the people that call it home, that help it survive? Come on, now. I know you’re not saying that. Get with it and support the public option, even if you already have health insurance. I promise, the perks for you will only get better.