Monday, October 26, 2009

a bill with a public option! and, i have more thoughts on health insurance reform.

harry reid has announced that he will introduce to the senate floor a version of the health insurance reform bill that includes a public option.

i think this is a great idea. if you agree, call/email/fax/write your senators and let them know you support it too.

i think the creation of a strong and affordable public option is really the only way to have meaningful health insurance reform. private insurance companies are not in the business to deliver high quality care; they want to make as much money as possible in order to meet their obligations to stockholders and to enrich top executives. that's their right, i think.

but at the same time, health insurance is not something most people can safely or comfortably do without. i understand that it seems unappealing to some folks to think about their tax dollars paying for someone else's care, but i believe that this sort of investment in one another is part of living in a civilized society. and sometimes it doesn't seem fair.

like we think of the things that we don't personally use, or haven't used for a long time. for example, i rarely drive but my taxes go toward massive maintenance projects for highway systems. i haven't taken advantage of a public school district in a decade, but my rent is increased to pay property taxes that go to OUSD. but when i do drive, i'm sure grateful for safe highways. and i definitely benefited from two public school districts at one time. am i paying for things in proportion to my use for them? definitely not. but there are also the fringe benefits associated with living in a place where the people around you have access to safe roads and the opportunity for a good education. i think we as a society are strengthened by social goods like education and infrastructure, and access to proper care.

there's also the matter of corporate profits. we may feel like we're saving money in taxes if there is no additional burden to pay for health care, but if we are paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month to private companies that may or may not allow us treatment that keeps us alive when we need it, is that better? what if we consider the part of that money goes to bonuses and advertising and massive executive salaries? (the CEO of united healthcare west makes $57,000 an hour. an HOUR.)

consider firefighting (another social good we all pay for that only some of us use.) right now, if a person's house catches on fire, they call 911 and the firefighters come, rescue the person's family, make sure the fire's out, and go. and those shiny trucks and skilled first responders aren't free—our tax dollars pay for them. and firefighting services are a public good. what if there were a bunch of different fire companies and you had to sign up with one, usually through work because it would be too expensive otherwise, and send them your premium each month...and then when it was time to call 911 you found that they weren't actually coming because they decided not to cover your fire?

i think a fine for not carrying insurance is totally insane, since many people who are uninsured would like to be but can't afford it. and i think private insurance companies should be allowed to continue to exist, but i do think that a government-run program for which everyone is eligible (like medicare, but for those under 65 too!) is the only viable solution.

and it's way past time. strong public option now.

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