In a pro football game, there is what is known as the “red zone”, the last twenty yards of the field of play before the end zone. Well, America and our legislators are in the red zone of debate surrounding what type health care reform shall descend upon us from Capital Hill as the law of the land. As we listen, read and hear from all the pundits and politicians, we should remember that this debate starts and ends with the notion that health care should now be considered a right for every single American. Some would say that health care should be viewed as a service, much like the municipal bus on which we ride to work, or the heat and electricity that lights our abodes and heats our homes. But, to be sure, this “thing” called health care has never been viewed in this manner, but the time has finally come that it be so. After all, without our health, we have nothing.
With health care as a right, or even as a service, everyone should be able to access it and afford it. In order to do this, there must be a mechanism in place that allows rich or poor, young and old, and that is “gender neutral” providing all Americans to have health care: only through real competition can this be possible; only through choice can we decide what is best for ourselves and our families. This mechanism has become known as the public option to stand side by side with health insurance plans offered through the private market. Somehow, all Republicans oppose this mechanism, even though many Members of Congress have a public option insuring them and their families already. A public option can be called by other monikers, like Medicare, Part “E” (for everyone), or one that I like, the “Medicare Less 65 Plan”. What does this offer? It will ensure that private health insurance companies must/will:
a. compete fairly and on a level playing field;
b. lower their premiums and administrative costs;
c. be more efficient;
d. provide a cap on out-of-pocket expenses;
e. prevent rescission of insurance except for fraud once treatment has been rendered;
f. eliminate monopolies that they have where they can set prices and costs as they please;
g. eliminate a cap for costs to cover required treatment;
h. ensure that doctors make the decisions and not them.
Hand in hand with the public option is that the antitrust exemption must
be lifted that the insurance industry has enjoyed since 1945. Senators Leahy and Shumer intend to add this provision to any health care reform legislation offered on the Senate floor. We should support this measure 100%! As well, and this is equally important, with the creation of a public option, any legislation must have as well a provision that precludes the insurance industry from raising premiums or costs from the time legislation is passed until the time it becomes effective. I warn about this, knowing what the banking industry has done with credit card fees now-a-days after new laws were passed by the Congress that will regulate the interest rates on credit cards, but which will not take effect until February next year. Also keep in mind what the banking industry has done with our tax dollars from the stimulus funds that have not seen the light of day for small businesses and to community banks. Americans cannot tolerate being fooled again by saying we are going to have a public option but the insurance industry will do what they can to squeeze out as much money from us before any new health care reform takes effect as possible.
In the end, the insurance industry may be able to do what we once knew as the “Ali shuffle” (from the days of the noted boxer, Mohammed Ali) when it comes to regulations, but it will not be able to do anything to avoid the American way – – – tried and true competition, which must include a public option type mechanism without any qualifications. In this way, we can truly say, as the title to this piece indicates, that health care is a right for all Americans.