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Editor’s note: This opinion is part of a point/counterpoint opinion feature about public option. Read the counterpoint, “Over 35 million uninsured citizens can’t be ignored” by CU Independent Opinion Editor Ellie Bean.
Do you remember watching Hurricane Katrina crash through the Southern U.S.? I remember watching FEMA finally dispense medical aid while thinking, “Boy, am I sure glad that the government is not in charge of my health care.”
It appears that despite democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, the current public option idea is not going to be included in Obama’s health care plan. There are good reasons for the oppositi. To understand why the U.S. should not have a public option, it is important to see how we cannot afford it, how it will not solve the problem and then offer some alternative solutions that will make health care in America more affordable and available for all people.
The number one reason that the U.S. should not implement a public option is that we cannot afford it. The national debt is poised to race past $12 trillion in a few weeks and the deficits continue to climb. We are still fighting a war in Iraq, and Obama is considering sending 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan. This, combined with the retirement of the baby boomers over the next few years, will mean millions of Americans retiring (meaning less income tax revenue) followed by a surge of people applying for social security and Medicare.
I believe that we are headed for financial peril if we don’t soon raise taxes (which will mean less jobs), print money (which will lead to inflation) or cut spending (which Obama and the Democratic Party are unlikely to do).
One way to think about the danger is to see how when the debt hits $14 trillion, the government would effectively need to cut ALL spending and take every single penny from every single American for an entire year to pay it off. There is a reason that many conservatives are calling our current trajectory “socialism.”
By the way, the Democrats are not the only ones to blame. In eight years, President Bush raised the national debt more than all of the other presidents in history combined. But as ridiculous as that sounds, at our current rate of spending, it is only going to take Obama four years to pass Bush’s record. The only “change” we will have left will be going to China as interest payments.
Despite the $1 trillion cost, Obama believes that the public option will save the U.S. money. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office disagrees. Obama believes that the public option will save money because it will offer competition with insurance companies. I believe that this is impossible because the public option would not be able to adjust to changing supply and demand in the market. So, when Congress, after listening to the lobbies and special interests, sets the premiums and coverage, it will either be cheap, not good enough for citizens and people will not join the plan, or it will be good coverage that will be endlessly subsidized by taxpayers. The government will continue to short change the doctors, and patients (you) will be left to wade through the bureaucracy. Maybe that is why a recent IBD/TIPP poll of doctors show that 45 percent will consider quitting if Obamacare gets passed. With the babyboomers retiring, the timing couldn’t be worse.
Besides, there are already over 3,000 insurance companies in America. How is it that they can’t compete? There is actually an answer to this question, and it is worth exploring, along with a few other solutions that will make healthcare more affordable for everyone.
For starters, the reason that insurance companies cannot compete is because they are not allowed to compete across state lines. There is no reason to have 3,000 small insurance companies in America when we could have a few strong insurance companies competing for your healthcare dollar. Now, it should be clear that I’m no fan of insurance companies. My father is a doctor and I know all too well how insurance companies treat (or don’t treat) their subscribers and how they try to trim people off of coverage.
This leads to a second idea—make healthcare more transparent. Patients need to be able to see what treatments they have available and how much these plans will cost. In addition, consumers need to be able to know which insurance companies actually do a good job and which ones mistreat people. Armed with this information, American consumers are always better than government penalties at putting companies out of business.
In addition to these ideas, a wide number of possibilities can cut health care spending and make coverage more available including:
- Tort Reform – reduce the power of lawyers to sue doctors with frivolous lawsuits. This would lower malpractice rates and doctors would not need to waste tens of thousands of dollars in needless care every time a patient walks in, just to prevent a lawsuit.
- Prescription drug reform – Disallow prescription drug companies from advertising and remove the subsidies that we have to pay every time a foreigner buys a U.S. made drug.
- Raise the retirement age.
- Give doctors incentives to start private practices which will reduce the influence of insurance companies and the government in the doctor-patient relationship. It would also cut out a lot of bureaucracy.
- Keep end of life issues between the doctor, the patient and the family, period.
- Focus on providing more preventative care.
The public option is not the best solution for either taxpayers or for people who need healthcare insurance. I hope that Congress puts this idea to bed and works in a bipartisan way to create better healthcare reform for American citizens. I don’t want poor Americans to be swept under the rug with underfunded healthcare provided by the public option. I also do not want the Washington who brought us the war in Iraq and FEMA running my health care, and I imagine that you would not want them running your health care, either.
Gregory Carlson is the Chairman of the College Republicans at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Contact CU Independent Contributor Gregory Carlson at Gregory.firstname.lastname@example.org.