Like many of you, I’ve been watching the health-care debate
very carefully. I’ve either been self-employed or worked for other people’s
small businesses for most of my adult life, and I’ve seen first-hand what a
huge struggle small businesses and individuals have paying insurance premiums.
For many years, my own business paid more in health insurance premiums than we
did to rent our storefront. In fact, for many businesses, health insurance is
the single largest non-salary expense they have.
So last fall, when the candidates from both parties -- from
the presidential to the congressional level -- talked about health-care reform
as a pressing need, I thought that our working-class families would finally get
the health care they deserve.
But the current debate leaves me cold.
You see, I believe that a strong public option is essential
to reforming health care in our country. Without it, there will be no reform at
all, just business as usual for the health insurers who suck huge profits from
us by preying on our vulnerability -- our fear of getting sick or being
injured. A public option would hold insurers accountable and create competition
to drive down costs.
The first tries at drafting legislation in Senate and House committees
contain a public option. However, the guidelines to be included in that public
option are so stringent that it would shut out many small businesses and self-employed
people, or make them pay a fee to participate in the public plan. If employers
have ten or fewer employees, they MAY qualify for the public insurance option
sometime in 2013. If employers have 20 or fewer employees, they MAY qualify for
the public insurance option sometime in 2014. If employers have more than 20 employees,
they MAY be able to get the public insurance option sometime in 2015, if
approved by “the Commissioner.” However, there is nothing in the drafts of legislation
mandating such approval or requiring the government to make the public
insurance option available to all employers for their workers at any time in
In fact, it is estimated by congressional aides that only
about 9 million people (of the 47 million who are currently uninsured) will be
insured by the public plan by 2019.
Which begs the question: Is a “public plan” truly a public
plan if it is not universally available to, well, the public?
Lately, we’ve been handed a new wrinkle. Even the
watered-down, weenie public plan may be off the table altogether in favor of
non-profit co-ops. You'd be able to choose from a network of health-care
providers in our state that opted to be included in the co-op, similar to the
way Blue Advantage works in NC now. For those of you that have seen double-digit
increases in your premiums, while your co-pays have also gone up, I have a
question: How’s that workin’ for ya?
Until we have universally available health care that is
affordable to all our citizens, we are morally bankrupt. Until we have
universally available health care that is affordable to all our citizens, we
will be at a disadvantage when competing with all other industrialized nations.
Health care impacts every aspect of our life in the US today, from the sustainability
of our economy to the education of our children.
Won’t you join me in telling Senators Burr and Hagan, and
Representative Foxx. that we need health-care reform now, and it needs to
include an affordable public option available to all our citizens?
Marsha Walpole lives
and worries about her family’s health insurance needs
in Cove Creek.