The conservatives’ conundrum with a public option health care plan


by Myles Spicer | August 18, 2009 • Well the recent news is that the Obama administration has abandoned a public option for health care reform. However, before it becomes totally moribund, let me take one more swing at it with these arguments.

Graduate U of Minn 1954. Flying officer USAF 1954-57 honorably discharged from reserve with rank of Capt. Owner several ad agencies in the Twin Cities and San Diego for over 45 years. Won several national creative awards in my career; and was a published author. Active politically entire adult life, and civil rights activist since age of 21. 76 years old…and an unrepentant liberal!

The objection (by both Republicans and some conservative Democrats) is generally couched in inciteful rhetoric such as “Socialized Medicine…rationing of care…government control of the health care industry…inefficiencies of government…destruction of private health plans…etc”. All might be valid arguments if it were not for the fact that most of these claims are indefensible, disingenuous, untrue, and moreover hypocritical! Thus, we have the conundrums they face on these claims. Let’s examine them one by one.

Conundrum #1: A government sponsored plan could put private insurers out of business.

Wait…are these not the same folks who have said government is wasteful, inefficient, ineffective, and worse! So, given that, how could such a defective program put private insurers out of business? Well, the only answer is that if government is that bad…the private sector is even worse. What else could explain such a conclusion?

Conundrum # 2: The government has an unfair advantage in such a competition.

Really? Again, aren’t these the very same folks who demand free market choices. A public option would be just such a “choice”. So, if indeed you are a true free market advocate, let the market decide. Frankly, if the government wins, that will benefit those who chose the public system – in a truly competitive win for consumers. And, as Obama has pointed out FedEx and UPS do pretty well against the US Postal service.

Conundrum #3: The government is wasteful and inefficient.

Well, by almost every bit of research done, a public plan would cost about 3% in administrative expense while private insurer’s administrative costs are about 31%. Who is inefficient, who is adding unwarranted cost to health care, who is sucking unproductive health care money out of the system? Answers anyone?

Conundrum #4: Government programs do not work well, and neither will the public healthcare plan.

Really? Congress itself is covered by an amazingly thorough government-managed health care system! Talk about hypocrisy – these legislators take their families for top notch health care subsidized 72% by government funds — then go on the floor of Congress and rail against a state-insured health care system. This is dishonesty with our citizens at its peak. Also a conundrum legislators hope the public will not uncover.

Conundrum # 5: The private sector can “fix” the ills of the system without government participation.

That is precisely the health care industry’s lobbying mantra. Blue Cross Blue Shield makes that same claim several places on its website. Problem is, BCBS has been in business since the 1920s, and what have they brought us? The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $7,129 per capita. Yet our system performs poorly in comparison and still leaves 45.7 million without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered. This conundrum is not defensible by any standard, and it amazes me that Congress people still advocate tweaking, or continuing, a system that is badly broken. Opponents of a public plan rail that “you cannot trust the government” – but history has shown, it is more the private insurance companies not to be trusted.

Conundrum # 6: A public option is (or will lead to) Socialized Medicine!

Oh my goodness, what would become of us then? We would likely become like most other industrialized countries with good universal health care at affordable costs. But not to worry, that is not going to happen. However, just invoking such a label scares the American public; and conservatives know it in a desperate effort to escape their conundrum. Indeed, all that is being discussed on this issue is for people to have either a private insurance company or a “Medicare-type” plan process their claims. The conundrum for the conservatives is twofold: first they operate under such a plan themselves; and secondly many veterans (the VA); and virtually all Americans over 65 already participate in government insured health plans (Medicare). We should not let “labels” drive getting the best health care system possible.

The bottom line is this. All the evidence shows that a public option would work, and would be best for serious reform of the American health care system. And even though Obama is backing away from the public option, conservatives, and their allies have an even larger problem in the form of a major conundrum. They have been placed in a position where they can make a significant contribution to our country…but at the cost of disappointing their base, as well as lobbyists and special interests that support them financially and politically. Who among them will actually be bold enough to stand up, and break through all the myths, hypocrisy, and misinformation that surround this issue? Who among them will support what three-fourths of the American public has said it wants? With a vote soon to come, we will then know.