President Barack Obama is going before the nation as he speaks Wednesday night before a joint session of Congress in an effort to battle for his beleaguered health care reform proposals. One of the more controversial components of the President’s health care reform package is the idea of a public option for consumers. Opponents of the measure including South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says the government should stay out of the health insurance business and a public or government option would create unfair competition for private insurance providers.
“If we pass a health care bill that affects one sixth of the nation’s economy the way we’re doing it now I think is political malpractice. Nobody knows what’s in these bills. A government option put in the middle of the health care bill would destroy private sector health care opportunities. If the government owns all of health care, the quality would go down, cost would go up and you’re going to wait longer to see a doctor and eventually health care will be rationed.”
House Majority Whip James Clyburn says the public option is sorely needed by persons who need an alternative to high priced health care and by those that private insurance providers refuse to carry.”We’ve got today almost 50,000,000 people without health insurance, Insurance companies are discriminating against people because of pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies are taking people off the rolls because of catastrophic illnesses.”
Clyburn compares the public option of health care to Santee Cooper in South Carolina. Clyburn points out that Santee Cooper is a state owned company that fills a need for energy, and that private companies like S.C.E & G and Duke Energy are not hurt by Santee Cooper’s existence.
Graham says he believes in health care reform, but he feels there are better ways to make health insurance more affordable and accessible for Americans without the use of a public option approach. “I think insurance companies should be required to cover people with pre-existing illnesses. I think you should be able to buy insurance across state lines. I think doctors and hospitals should be able to sell their services without going through an insurance compnyto create competition. I would like to create tax advantages for every American family to buy insurance that they own and give them incentives to keep themselves healthy.”
Clyburn says in order to give each American an affordable choice for health care coverage and to keep overall health care insurance pricing under control, a public option is necessary. “We’re saying that his public option will be in there to keep insurance companies honest. these companies are doubling premiums about every nine or 10 years and were saying that this public option would compete in order to keep these rates in check.”
Graham says any health care insurance reform should reward persons who take steps to stay healthy. “If you smoke, I’m willing to pay for a program that will allow you to stop smoking, but if you continue to smoke you should pay for higher premiums. There are a lot of ways to reform health care without turning it over to the government. We’re in gridlock now, and the only way to get break this gridlock is to get democrats and republicans in a room with people from the private sector to come up with a framework. They’re trying to jam a bill through Congress and the American people are not buying.”
Clyburn says a lot of fear mongering is going on concerning health care, similar to the tactics used by health care reform opponents in 1994. Clyburn says he recently talked with a cancer patient on a radio talk show who said she, like a lot of people, like her existing health care coverage until she had to actually use it.
“She said “I’ve got it and liked it, but when I started to use it, I found out what I really had,” and that’s what people don’t understand. Just go out here and attempt to use it and you may not like what you’ve got and you will need that public option as an alternative so that your private insurance carrier knows that if they mess up, they could lose your business.”