Now that the Senate Finance Committee has passed its version of health care reform, it is going to be very interesting to see how majority leader Harry Reid ends up concocting a final bill. On one side, you’ve got the HELP Committee’s bill led by Sen. Dodd which contains a public option. On the other side, you’ve got the Finance bill that has no public option.
Will Harry Reid ignore the fact that on any given day, at least 65% of Americans strongly support the creation of a public option, or will he continue to be weak and water it down to avoid fear of filibuster? Let’s also consider that the House bill also has a strong public option component and enjoys far greater support than the Senate.
If anything, the health care industry’s last minute scare tactic, a flawed PriceWaterhouseCoopers report warning of higher premiums if health care reform passes, SHOULD be the tipping point for those conservative Democrats still wavering on the public option. Perhaps they ought to follow Republican senator Olympia Snowe’s reasoning…”When history calls, history calls.”
My hope is that when all is said and done, the Democratic caucus will wise up and realize that they do have a chance to do something historic here that can once and for all provide quality health care for all Americans. However, hope and politics often don’t go hand in hand. So, should a robust public option NOT be included in the final legislation, here are my ideas on how to pass reform that doesn’t have a public option, but sort of does.
1. Repeal the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act.
This law essentially exempted the insurance industry from anti-trust regulations and allowed them to set up monopolies. In many states, there is typically only one provider around…usually Blue Cross Blue Shield. It’s time to end this foolishness and allow other providers to move in and offer real choice to consumers.
2. Give states the ability to create state funded health plans
This is an idea being floated around by Delaware senator Tom Carper. Under his plan, states could set up co-ops, extend the state employee plan to all residents, or even setup a real public option. Or, they could do nothing. For states that do wish to setup a public option, they could receive some start up seed money from the federal government. And for states that don’t wish to participate, I hope the governor can make a compelling argument as to why he/she doesn’t want to create fair competition in his/her state.
3. Allow people to order prescription drugs from Canada, or make the insurance provider match the price
If a person can demonstrate that they can purchase the same prescription in Canada at a cheaper price than their insurance plan is willing to pay, then they should either 1) be allowed to get the prescription filled in Canada or 2) the insurance provider must match the price. Tight regulations would need to be put in place to avoid fraud, but this could potentially save people a lot of money…especially senior citizens.
4. If all else fails, let the federal government step in
If all of the above stated regulations are put in place and for some reason a person still cannot find affordable coverage, then he/she should be able to request assistance from the federal government under the Medicare umbrella. These situations should be few and far between, but necessary to bridge any gaps in coverage for all legal citizens and residents. This would not be a public option in the sense that it would be out there competing with all of the other plans. This would only be for cases where coverage was unobtainable by all other methods.
Again, my desire would be for a national public plan as I believe it is the best way to keep insurance companies in check. However, if the reality is that our elected leaders are going to put politics over priorities, then perhaps something like this is the next best thing. They just need to get it done.