Health Care: The Public Option’s Last Stand, and the Public’s

I would have preferred a single payer system like Medicare, but became convinced earlier this year that a public, Medicare-like optional plan was just about as much as was politically possible. Now the White House is stepping back even from the public option, with the President saying it’s “not the entirety of health care reform,” the White House spokesman saying the President could be “satisfied” without it, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying that a public insurance plan is “not the essential element.”

Without a public, Medicare-like option, health care reform is a bandaid for a system in critical condition. There’s no way to push private insurers to become more efficient and provide better value to Americans without being forced to compete with a public option. And there’s no way to get overall health-care costs down without a public option that has the authority and scale to negotiate lower costs with pharmaceutical companies, doctors, hospitals, and other providers — thereby opening the way for private insurers to do the same.

It’s been clear from the start that the private insurers and other parts of the medical-industrial complex have hated the idea of the public option, for precisely these reasons. A public option would cut deeply into their current profits. That’s why they’ve been willing to spend a fortune on lobbyists, threaten and intimidate legislators and ordinary Americans, and even rattle Obama’s cage to the point where the Administration is about to give up on it.

The White House wonders why there hasn’t been more support for universal health care coming from progressives, grass-roots Democrats, and Independents. I’ll tell you why. It’s because the White House has never made an explicit commitment to a public option.

Senator Kent Conrad’s ersatz public option — his regional “cooperatives” — won’t have the scale or authority to do what a public option would do. That’s why some Republicans say they could buy it. What’s Conrad’s response? “The fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the United States Senate for a public option. There never have been,” he tells “FOX News Sunday.” Conrad is wrong. If Obama tells Senate Democrats he will not sign a healthcare reform bill without a public option, there will be enough votes in the United States Senate for a public option.

I urge you to make it absolutely clear to everyone you know, everyone who cares about universal health care and what it will mean to our country, that the bill must contain a real public option. Tell that to your representatives in Congress. Tell that to the White House. If you are receiving piles of emails from the Obama email system asking you to click in favor of health care, do not do so unless or until you know it has a clear public option. Do not send money unless or until the White House makes clear its support for a public option.

This isn’t just Obama’s test. It’s our test.

About Robert Reich 545 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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5 Comments on Health Care: The Public Option’s Last Stand, and the Public’s

  1. Throw The Healthcare Obstructionist Out!

    More than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 76% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (85% of democrats, 71% of independents, and 60% republicans). Basically everyone.

    We have the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed world. And the most costly. Costing over twice as much as every other county. Conservative estimates are that over 120,000 of you dies each year in America from treatable illness that people in other developed countries don’t die from. Rich, middle class, and poor a like. Insured and uninsured. Men, women, children, and babies. This is what being 37th in quality of healthcare means.

    I know that many of you are angry and frustrated that REPUBLICANS! In congress are dragging their feet and trying to block TRUE healthcare reform. What republicans want is just a taxpayer bailout of the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry, and the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare industry. A trillion dollar taxpayer funded private health insurance bailout is all you really get, without a robust government-run public option available on day one. Co-OP’s ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A GOVERNMENT-RUN PUBLIC OPTION. They are a fraud being pushed by the GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry that is KILLING YOU!


    These industries have been slaughtering you and your loved ones like cattle for decades for profit. Including members of congress and their families. These REPUBLICANS are FOOLS!

    Republicans and their traitorous allies have been trying to make it look like it’s President Obama’s fault for the delays, and foot dragging. But I think you all know better than that. President Obama inherited one of the worst government catastrophes in American history from these REPUBLICANS! And President Obama has done a brilliant job of turning things around, and working his heart out for all of us.

    But Republicans think you are just a bunch of stupid, idiot, cash cows with short memories. Just like they did under the Bush administration when they helped Bush and Cheney rape America and the rest of the World.

    But you don’t have to put up with that. And this is what you can do. The Republicans below will be up for reelection on November 2, 2010. Just a little over 13 months from now. And many of you will be able to vote early. So pick some names and tell their voters that their representatives (by name) are obstructing TRUE healthcare reform. And are sellouts to the insurance and medical lobbyist.

    Ask them to contact their representatives and tell them that they are going to work to throw them out of office on November 2, 2010, if not before by impeachment, or recall elections. Doing this will give you something more to do to make things better in America. And it will make you feel better too.

    There are many resources on the internet that can help you find people to call and contact. For example, many social networking sites can be searched by state, city, or University. Be inventive and creative. I can think of many ways to do this. But be nice. These are your neighbors. And most will want to help.

    I know there are a few democrats that have been trying to obstruct TRUE healthcare reform too. But the main problem is the Bush Republicans. Removing them is the best thing tactically to do. On the other hand. If you can easily replace a democrat obstructionist with a supportive democrat, DO IT!

    You have been AMAZING!!! people. Don’t loose heart. You knew it wasn’t going to be easy saving the World. :-)

    God Bless You

    jacksmith — Working Class

    Twitter search (#welovethenhs) Check it out.


    Republican Senators up for re-election in 2010.

    * Richard Shelby of Alabama
    * Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
    * John McCain of Arizona
    * Mel Martinez of Florida
    * Johnny Isakson of Georgia
    * Mike Crapo of Idaho
    * Chuck Grassley of Iowa
    * Sam Brownback of Kansas
    * Jim Bunning of Kentucky
    * David Vitter of Louisiana
    * Kit Bond of Missouri
    * Judd Gregg of New Hampshire
    * Richard Burr of North Carolina
    * George Voinovich of Ohio
    * Tom Coburn of Oklahoma
    * Jim DeMint of South Carolina
    * John Thune of South Dakota
    * Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas
    * Bob Bennett of Utah

    • REALLY? – This is what you believe – I would like to know first of all where you get your statistical numbers….Yes I do believe that Bush overspent – However Democrats did hold the purse strings the last couple of years….and part of the reason the economy is so bad is because of all the threats that Obama has made regarding the raising of taxes to individuals making over 250K which pay most of the income tax as it is…..

      I would like to know honestly if you suffer from any sort of condition? I do – I have Hereditary Angio Edema and Fibromyalgia – I have private health insurance – I am young… 36 – but I was born with HAE and spent much of my life in and out of doctors offices….I know first hand what it is like to not have health insurance – and I know first hand with insurance – and how many times I have had to appeal my insurance company for many of the treatments that I get – Right now I receive a treatment 2x a week for my HAE – it is 4000.00 per infusion – so around 36,000 per month. There is alternative treatments that I can do but they are Anabolic Steroids – and I am a female, plus they do not prevent my attacks, they only minimize them – with the infusions, I have no side effects – I work so that I can have insurance, my family and I have sacrificed by taking lower paying jobs, so that we can have insurance…..that was our choice, and I do not regret it at all….but if I was on Universal Health Care – would you want to foot the bill for me? Would you feel like I was a burden on society – Would you say – Oh she can just take steroids and they are only 600.00 per month compared to 36,000 per month….even though the steroids will eventually kill me – and professional athletes are going to jail and being banned from the Hall of Fame – would you require me to continue on them – I think that people will start judging their neighbors if they are all footing the bill – will you see someone in the store that weighs 300lbs buying chips and pop – and say to them – My children will be paying for your medical costs….so stop killing yourself??? – I would like to know what you would think about someone who drank to much getting a liver transplant – would you say – No they are not worth it…..Think about what you are proposing….it is ludicrous to think that we can afford a Universal Health Care System – I need insurance – and I am able to get it…if something happens to my job – there is a non-profit agency that will help me get insurance…..there are many programs available, you just have to look….and I know personally – people who live part time in Denmark – and US – and they pay to keep there US insurance – the health care system is so bad in Denmark, if they have any major problems, they come to US, and are treated here….Story and after story I have heard about how bad it is in Denmark – In France they are going broke from the Universal Health Care System – People in Canada come to the US for treatment all the time….I had an exchange student from Brazil, and they purchase extra insurance because the countries “Universal Health Care” is so terrible – they know that if something happened to them, it would be months before they were treated…..

      Really – I think you are misinformed. You need to talk with real people, who have real problems….Because of my chronic conditions, I can speak with confidence that a Universal Health Care System is not the answer….I do believe that big Pharma, is a huge problem in this country – doctors not being able to “prescribe” nutrional healing, vitamins and herbs for problems is a HUGE problem – these are the things that need to be addressed…..Diet, exercise, and cooking healthily should be a requirement in school – learning how to grow healthy food – and how to prepare it – these should be requirements – Pop and Candy in school – and mass vaccinations – these are all problems……why are we not addressing this??

      We should have funding for natural cures – so that profit driven rx companies have a reason to study why Vitamin D can prevent the flu – cancer – fibromyalgia and many other common ailments – where is the outcry for this – we need reputable companies making vitamins that work – and that are not “flushed” down the toilet…..until we change our ways – there will be no good answer – but Universal Health Care will is not the answer…..

      • Look Ms, I do not believe a word you are saying. You pay 4000 per infusion and you think the Insurance company is saving you money? I have live in France and the US, Say all you want about French Fries and Freedom fries. They have better a health care systems. And the facts do don’t back your illness and your claim.
        I am willing to say you are a liar or by the definition what you are stating, you have Medicaid. Why folks lied about stuff to defend insurance companies. Ms I work for Bankers Life and Casualty CO. Health Care provider. They will shaft your benefits if you have that conditions. Stop Lying please!

  2. Insurance CEOs are crooks.

    Insurance CEOs use our premium dollars to pay for lucrative CEO bonuses, pay for their million dollar mortgages and buy out politicians, but as soon as someone who has paid their premiums for years gets too sick for their threshold of costs to cover your illness, they drop you. Maybe they should use our premium dollars for health needs instead of greed and buying out politicians.

    The health industry is doing the same thing with your premium dollars that wall street did with your 401k money. They use it as they please for their own self-interest and you’re only worth to them is to keep donating your premium dollars to give CEOs 80 million dollar bonuses, but as soon as your sickness infringes on their luxury living, they drop you. They could care less about middle class except that you support their scams with your premium dollars just like we did with our 401k money on wall street.

    If our taxes went up as fast as our insurance premiums we would be screaming bloody murder. Obama public option lowers premium costs and if you make under 250,000 a year, no tax increase. A deal you will never get from the greedy CEOs who run insurance companies. As long as you put your health care decisions in the hands of profit orientated greedy CEOs your life and financial well being is at risk. Government run VA health care for our military and medicare for our seniors has already proven that the government puts health care above profit. So who do you trust — greedy health insurance CEOs or the government for your health needs?

  3. If there was ever a time for a national referendum–THEN THIS IS DEFINITELY IT? Of all the issues the ones that will influence the American peoples economy, culture, language and society for decades to come, is Health care and illegal immigration. Neither political party, special interest lobbyists nor anybody else should be able to use their influence the running of our country. The United States–VOTER–should have the last word, not corrupt members of the Democratic leadership, the Republican minority party and certainly not La Raza or ACLU, US Chamber of Commerce, Council of Foreign Relations, Cato Institute, billionaire George Soros, Ford Foundation and a multitude of self interest groups. In health care the insurance companies have used their political currency, to weaken any prospect of a Canadian or European style public health care option. 2/3 of America insist on the single payer system like Canada and the European developed nations.

    The rest of these despicable organizations want the free flow of cheap labor that is already swarming across our nation, even though we are in a deep recession and millions of US citizens and legal residence are jobless. As I speak 1.5 million new immigrants entered America and that’s not counting the illegal aliens who extract from taxpayers everyday. Our politicians can no longer demand of the people, to pay for foreign national health care, when they cannot afford it for their own families? How many more years are the people to be dictated to the power of profiteering insurance companies? How many decades must taxpayers is forced to pay for illegal immigrants and families, who have already broken our laws of sovereignty and expect to be rewarded with another blanket AMNESTY.

    How can we assume our legislators to honor the “Rule of Law”, when they have already stone-walled us over the 1986 immigration enforcement law? Millions of loyal Americans who have already commanded E-Verify extraction tool in the workplace (section of the SAVE ACT) 287 G police enforcement, no match letter and the ICE raids of illegal immigrant. But we must maintain the bombardment if you want a health care public option choice? Whether you want to keep on supporting the impoverished, unschooled of foreign nations that skirt our laws? CALL YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES FOR WHAT YOU WANT AT 202-224-3121? NOT WHAT THE SPECIAL INTEREST LOBBY HAS PAID FOR? Read about the trillions to be spent on giving AMNESTY to illegal immigrants at the Heritage Foundation. GOOGLE more facts on the web, or search for the truth at NUMBERSUSA.

    Observe this PETITION to STOP any health care to illegal immigrants at:

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