Response to Wall Street Journal Commentary on Health Reform and the "Public Option"

By Christine Cupaiuolo — April 14, 2009

The health care reform debate is zeroing in on the possiblepublic option” — a public insurance plan similar to Medicare that would compete with private insurers.

In a lengthy editorial on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal took a strong stand against the public option, calling it the end of private health insurance: “Not only will the new program become the default coverage for the uninsured, but Democrats intend to game the system to precipitate — or if need be, coerce — an exodus to government from private insurance. Soon enough, that will be the only ‘option’ left.”

Our Bodies Ourselves Executive Director Judy Norsigian left this comment in response:

As a longtime women’s health advocate and a co-author of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” I am appalled at the misleading and incomplete picture offered by this commentary. Your readers deserve better.

If anything, it is the private insurance industry that is well-equipped to “game” the system to its advantage and eventually kill the public option. This already has been demonstrated in cases where private insurers successfully ran end runs around state-level requirements (such as those forbidding the exclusion of people on the basis of pre-existing conditions).

What would work best for everyone is single-payer health care, and even with the misinformation purveyed by the well-heeled insurance industry, most of the American public sees thru the distortions and still support the single payer approach.

The website of Physicians for a National Health Program is an excellent place to find a detailed account of why the insurance industry is actually KEEPING so many Americans from getting the full and affordable coverage that they deserve. So is the current issue of THE NATION magazine.

Here’s information and resources from PNHP on single payer health insurance.

The Nation’s section on health care policy includes this editorial urging progressives  to support incremental improvements in public programs (while favoring a comprehensive national health insurance program) and a bunch of new stories: Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, describes how two medical crises in her family added up to financial disaster; Noam Chomsky (video) explains the lag between public will to de-privatize healthcare and political plans to implement a new system; Tara McKelvey on how the privatization of veterans’ healthcare limits the government’s ability to honor those who serve; and much more …

Plus: Maine lawmakers last week passed a non-binding resolution calling on President Obama and Congress to establish a single-payer health system. Here’s the joint resolution, which the Senate passed by a 20-15 vote; the House vote was 91-52. The vote came months after a poll of nearly 600 Maine physicians showed a majority favor a single payer or “Medicare for all” approach, reports the AP.

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