What’s Left

As debate over health care reform has increased, conservative detractors of President Obama have been quick to label proposed reform as evidence of socialist motivations, while some groups have gone as far to label President Obama as a fascist. Comparisons such as these serve to obfuscate the issue and place rhetoric above substance, thus ignoring the dire state of America’s health care system. Despite all the hot air from conservatives, the facts still remain the same: America ranks far behind most industrialized countries in the health care available to its citizens and also boasts the most expensive health care system in the world. Can it really be said that our health care system is not in need of serious renovation?

The state of health care in the United States is in need of serious overhaul and a public option that would ensure universal health care should be part of the solution. As of 2007, 15.3 percent of Americans were without health insurance; the percentage may represent a minority, but it means that 45.7 million Americans do not have health insurance. This statistic indicates that serious change must be taken to rectify the inadequacies of the system and points to a public option as a responsible way to ensure that all Americans have

health insurance. Democrats argue that the competition introduced by a public health insurance plan would help lower the costs of private insurance, while Republicans contest that a public option would eliminate the viability of private insurers. This judgment on the part of Republicans is hasty since there are cases where public and private insurers co-exist as in the United Kingdom and Japan.

Universal health care as provided for through a public insurance option should be part of the final goal of reform. A public option should be the tool of choice to fix health care because it guarantees that no one is excluded from care. The public option helps lower the costs of health care for the privately insured and in doing so, it will provide other benefits. For example, by introducing competition, the public option will relax the burden of the climbing costs of insurance for employees.

Additionally, small businesses would benefit from the public option because under the current system, they are less inclined to provide insurance to employees due to increased costs imposed on them by insurance companies. With a public option, insurers would have to compete for the business of small companies, which would help drive down prices.

Mired in their extreme rhetoric, Republicans have chosen to ignore the numerous benefits that would accompany a public option for health insurance. In the language they use and the ideas they promote, Republicans make clear that they are not interested in expanding health care to those who do not have it and uncommitted to changing a health care system that is no longer viable.

On the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) web page is a list that details the reasons the public is “dissatisfied with the current state of health care.” While the list includes many reasons relating to the high cost of health care, no where on this list is there mention of those who are “dissatisfied” because they do not have access to any health care. While Republicans blithely ignore the unseemly fact that so many are uninsured, democrats are offering a solution. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is once again putting the joy that they receive from excoriating a democratic administration ahead of the need for legislation to address an urgent issue.