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Health Last Updated: Jun 9th, 2009 - 01:38:31

Keeping the public health care option alive
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Jun 9, 2009, 00:24

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The public health care option is a government provided health care alternative for individuals to select instead of various private insurance programs. This is to ensure that as many Americans get affordable, quality health care coverage as possible. It is a fallback from Obama�s single-payer plan, which would have had the government as single healthcare insurer, as is the case with Medicare (for the aged) and Medicaid (for the poor), already targeted for $300 billion in cuts over 10 years.

Now, even in this fallback form the public health care option is being threatened by the lions of Big Pharma and private healthcare insurers. They have developed a plan to kill the Public Health Care Option before it�s even offered. News of this came this weekend from former Labor Secretary and current professor Robert Reich, at the University of California at Berkeley, in an article on his blog, How Pharma and Insurance Intend to Kill the Public Option, And What Obama and the Rest of US Must Do.

Sniffing around Washington as an insider, Reich discovered that Big Pharma and Big Insurance are campaigning fiercely to kill the public option in the emerging health care bill. After all, why would they want a public option to compete with private insurers? The option hands the public bargaining power to negotiate better rates with drug companies. In fact, Big Pharma and Insurance lions roar, �That�s unfair,� that is to give more people better health care at lower cost. Unfair for them is anything that threatens to eat into their feast of profits, which leave us as the carcasses.

As usual, their lobbyists are pushing and pulling Democrats and so-called �moderate� Republicans who claim, get this, they�re in favor of a public option to support legislation that includes it in name only. This �double talk� is supported by three schemes. First, is to break up the public option into small pieces under �multiple regional third-party administrators that would have little or no bargaining leverage,� the old divide and conquer scheme. Second, give the public option to the states where Big Pharma and Big Insurance can pay off legislators and officials as they have for years. Third, tack the public plan to the same rules private insurers have already fooled with, making it impossible for the public plan to put real competitive pressure on the private insurers. How�s that for corruption on the half shell?

Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is the Senate Finance Committee chairman, whom Reich rightly asks, �exactly why does the Senate Finance Committee have so much say over health care?�

Senator Baucus is more than happy to sign on to any one of the above three schemes above. By the way, is Baucus overlooking Treasury�s bank bonanza or mortgage companies� subprime sinking of the economy? Not.

Baucus is waiting for more backing from colleagues on one of the above three schemes, but so far, nada. Fortunately, Senate colleagues are timid about showing their hands over wanting to kill the public option. Senator Ted Kennedy, who might be able to round up votes for the option is, as we know, ailing, though his health committee released a draft of a bill yesterday, which contains the full public option. Perhaps it takes an ailing soul to understand the full meaning of affordable, quality healthcare.

Then we have the ultimate Snowe-job, brought to us by Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine. She is well respected and considered somehow �non-partisan,� offering �cover� to Democrats who may need it. But her new proposal is that the public option would kick in years from now (read never), to be �triggered� only if insurance companies don�t bring down healthcare costs and expand coverage in the meantime.

The Snowe-job here is first: these conditions could be achieved by other pieces of legislation like computerized records, which will bring down costs a bit; second, a mandate that everyone must have coverage will automatically expand coverage. If push comes to shove, Big Pharma and Insurance will argue that their participation fulfills their part of the bargain. So no public option will need to be �triggered.� Pretty clever, eh! You wouldn�t think Snowe, Pharma and Insurance would go this far to screw the public for a buck. Ah, but they do.

So, as stated, �years from now� will be never. Ergo, there will never be a better time than now to enact the public option. If it�s not in the healthcare bill, you can say �sayonara� to it, given the public�s short attention span, which is exactly what is being counted on.

The same story, Reich reports, is happening in the House. Two members who had originally supported single-payer told him that Big Pharma and Insurance have pushed the same corrupt strategy there. And many House members are looking to the Senate to see what happens. So the �Snowe-job� has to be headed off �at the pass,� as they used to say in the old westerns. Because the Big Lie is already buzzing among members.

But know this. The clock on the private option is ticking now. It could be decided within days or weeks. Once that public option which Big Pharma and Insurance would kill, as Reich says, �without leaving fingerprints on the murder weapon,� i.e., �Snowe�s trigger;� once that happens public opinion will be well nigh impossible to resuscitate. So, White House, wake up. Act now and insist on a genuine public option. Don�t leave it to those who stand to profit from the public option�s defeat win again. Stop the Big Pharma and Insurance lions in their tracks. And you, John Q. Public, you let the Senate and House hear you roar loud and clear on that, too. It�s unlikely you�ll ever get a second shot.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at His new book, State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 on� is available at, Amazon or

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