This one’s for Mom

by Karoli on March 26, 2010 · 142 comments

Choose Love Over Fear
Image by elycefeliz via Flickr

Okay Mom, here’s how you can explain to people that it’s not in any way, shape or form a government-run health plan. I know you’re getting swamped with email from people afraid they’ve just seen the apocalypse, but really, you don’t even have to trust me on this, because this is the bottom line: A comprehensive set of reforms that builds on a system of private insurance is not a government-run health plan. It just isn’t. It’s a regulated privately-run health plan. Really.

If they don’t believe me, maybe this will help:

And indeed, this is exactly the case. Obama’s plan closely mirrors three proposals that have attracted the support of Republicans who reside within their party’s mainstream: The first is the 1993 Senate Republican health plan, which is compared with Obama’s plan here, with the similarity endorsed by former Republican Senator Dave Durenberger here. The second is the Bipartisan Policy Center plan, endorsed by Bob Dole, Howard baker, George Mitchell and Tom Daschle, which is compared to Obama’s plan here. And the third, of course, is Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan, which was crafted by the same economist who helped create Obama’s plan, and which is rhetorically indistinguishable from Obama’s. (The main difference are that Obama’s plan cuts Medicare [Advantage subsidies] and imposes numerous other cost-saving measures — which is to say, attempting to craft a national version of Romney’s plan would result in something substantially more liberal than Obama’s proposal.)

Last year I was invited to a conference call with a coalition of the players to discuss what they believed was legislatively possible. At the time I asked about whether a public option (also known as a government-run health plan) was in the cards, and was gently, but firmly told there was no legislative will for it. This conversation was back in the early days, when health care reform still had the support of 68% of the American public, the term ‘death panels’ had not yet become part of our daily vocabulary, and people weren’t waving signs at town hall meetings with 40-year old John Birch society slogans attached to the faces and names of our day.

Forget that what we really wanted WAS a government-run health plan. The lack of one has been as divisive to the left as the spectre of one has been to the entire country. Unlocking the Medicare door and letting us all pay extra to buy in early would’ve been terrific, but hey, there just wasn’t any legislative will for it.

It’s a little insulting to have all of these shouters out there beating their heads on the desk, facepalming and wagging their fingers in our face with red-faced fury about something that just does not exist.

So Mom, you taught me to tell the truth no matter what the cost. I’m telling the truth here: there’s no government-run health plan. We wish there was, but there isn’t.

When you have the conversation with your friends who are so bent over this, could you also ask them what they have against young people? Because it could be their grandson who faced the possibility of giving up his chosen career for whatever he could find with health insurance, or their not-eligible-for-insurance-due-to-pre-existing-conditions adult child that lost their house, and wouldn’t they want them to have the opportunities — the SAME opportunities — they had?

In the end, it was always — ALWAYS — about one thing, and one thing only: ending discrimination against people who were unfortunate enough to have a pre-existing condition. Against children. Against adults. Against the self-employed and the small business owners. Those who were not very poor, very rich, elderly or employed found themselves consigned to the lowly purgatory of the uninsured with one direction to go: down.

I don’t understand where all this “I have mine; suck it up, unfortunates” attitude comes from. Truly, I don’t. It’s certainly not how you raised me, nor is it how I recall my friends’ parents raising them.

Could it simply be that they’re mistaken? Maybe, just maybe, someone lied to them. Imagine that.

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