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December 17, 2008

Public Health Insurance Would Be Too Good and We'd Like It Too Much

A common thread is emerging in the right wing response to healthcare reform. Its opponents aren't claiming that public healthcare will be bad. Rather, they are terrified that the new system will be so good that no citizen would buy expensive private insurance--or vote for politicians who wanted to take public insurance away.

The Obama team is sending clear signals that healthcare reform is a core economic issue, and the health insurance industry is becoming increasingly anxious by the future administration's determination to bring healthcare costs under control. Some Americans are seeing their healthcare premiums rising at four times the rate of inflation, if they have insurance at all. Healthcare reform is a pocketbook issue for all of us, according to the Obama team.

In tough economic times it might be tempting to postpone healthcare reforms, but Obama is adamant that delay would be a false economy.

In the American Prospect, Joanne Kenen and Sarah Axeen support claims about the high cost of doing nothing:

A recent report by the New America Foundation's health-policy program estimates that the cost of doing nothing about health care, including poor health and shorter lifespan of the uninsured, is well above $200 billion a year and rising. That's enough to cover the uninsured and still have some left over for other public-health needs.

If healthcare costs continue to rise at their current rates, it will cost $24,000/yr to insure a family of four by 2016, an 84% increase from today. At these rates, half of American households would have to spend at least 45% percent of their income to be insured.

In the Nation, Willa Thompson describes how a bicycle crash made her appreciate the connection between healthcare and politics. Thompson was 21 years old when she suffered major injuries after a collision with a truck. Luckily, she was covered by her parents' medical insurance until she turned 22. She later realized that if she had been just a few months older when the accident happened, she wouldn't have been able to pay for her medical care.

We all agree that something needs to be done. Let's briefly review the options that have been proposed so far. Obama wants to provide healthcare for all by requiring private insurance companies to cover everyone and creating a public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers. The second part of his plan is the public option that Republican opponents are so scared of.

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Posted by healthinsurance at December 17, 2008 12:41 PM

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