I've been following the debate about health care reform with bated breath, just like the rest of you. This is perhaps the most important issue being negotiated in our country right now, both in the Congress and the media.
Like most of you, I'm frustrated that the reform being debated isn't a single payer health care program, which is exactly what we need to take the best care of the most Americans. Instead, we're left debating a host of much more limp, industry-friendly options, but one in particular needs our support.
Right now, the GOP is working tirelessly to kill what Democrats have coined "The Public Option". The Public Option is, for better or worse, the closest thing we're going to get to the health care system we need to heal the bloated, petty excuse for health "care" in this country. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has quite publicly proclaimed that even the idea of a government alternative to the price-gouging insurance corporations needs to go away. More surprising is that even Senator and former Presidential Candidate John Kerry (D-MA) has been ready to fold on the issue, recently offering to hold off on a public option for a decade.
The Public Option is important for a few reasons. Chief among them being the fact that I don't trust private industry with my health. The profit motives of a private industry don't exactly inspire the confidence or level of altruism I'd like when dealing with the health and wellness of my loved ones.
The next reason is that it's already well-documented that so much of the money that goes into private insurance is fed into overhead, I just don't see how private industry seems like a viable option next to the relatively low overhead Medicaid and Medicare boasts. If private industry had to compete with an option that truly was altruistic and run by people whose goal was to offer you affordable health care and ensure the treatment you need, we'd see them shift more towards that model.
The last reason we need it, desperately, is to prove to people how non-threatening government run insurance is, how cheap it can be, and how efficiently it can work. If we can point to this system as something that has been a benefit to enough people then we can actually work towards eliminating the greed and excess of a privatized insurance system.
Seeing the GOP minority work so hard to prevent this from happening is pretty frustrating, though it is expected, even taking into account the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans (Republicans included!) favor The Public Option. What is too much for me to bear, however, are the Moderates and and Leftys who seem to so easily be caving to the GOP on this. John Kerry I mentioned above, but the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius told NPR (listen to that here) that single-payer isn't even in the cards. And we're seeing far more conservative Democrats compromising their way out of a public option than we are progressives convincing them to stay.
My point is that more than anything in American politics that will shape the course of how we take care of ourselves and each other, this public option is what I see as the most important.
Seeing it flounder is frustrating me. Seeing it being sold down the river by "progressives" and "Democrats" is downright pissing me off.
All I can think of is Howard Beale's words in the film Network, chiding me over and over to get mad. Telling me that I'm a human being, God damn it. That my life has value. But first we have to get mad.
But unlike Howard Beale, who didn't want us to write to our Congressmen because he didn't know what to tell us to write, I've been calling and writing mine. Frequently.
We all need to.
We need to flood the calls of our elected officials and tell them that we demand a public option. If they're too spineless and in the pockets of big business to give us the single payer system we need, then we need to demand they pave the way with the public option. We simply can't allow for-profit companies to hold our health in their hands. It's insanity to go down that road.
Though it may not feel like you're doing much, call your Senators and Representatives and tell them that they need to stop focusing on partisan, party politics and actually act out the will of the people and ensure that we get, at the very least some sort of public insurance alternative to the shifty fat cats running things now.
Sure, maybe I'm not doing any good by myself (Hell, one of my Senators, Orrin Hatch, has been one of the single largest recipients of lobbyist money from the health care and pharmaceutical industry for years), but if enough people flood them with calls, they might realize that the will of the people isn't on their side this time.
Bryan Young is the producer of Killer at Large.