Astroturfing the Public Option

The Senate Finance Committee is slogging through literally hundreds of proposed amendments to the Baucus health care reform bill. The bill still doesn’t have a public option, but there’s a good chance that insurance subsidies will be revised upwards, as Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly reports.

Last Sunday, President Obama made his pitch for health reform on five national TV talk shows. John Nichols of the Nation criticizes Obama for his uninspired and frankly unappealing depiction of the public option:

Indeed, as Obama describes his notion of a public option, it is so constrained, under-funded and uninspired in approach as to be dysfunctional.

While there is no question that the right reform remains a single-payer “Medicare for All” system that provides quality care for all Americans while eliminating insurance company profiteering, if the best that can be hoped for is a government-supported alternative to the corporate options, then it should be robust enough to compete.

Obama advocates a public option open to the uninsured only, not to anyone who wants to buy in. If the goal of the public option is to reduce costs through competition, a limited public option would be self-defeating. A public option is supposed to drive down prices through competition. Obama’s version of a public option couldn’t compete: It would only take cases the insurers already rejected!

Speaking of insurers, Brian Beutler and Zach Roth report in Talking Points Memo that insurance company Humana is under fire for trying to scare senior citizens into resisting health reform, specifically cuts in Medicare Advantage, a federally subsidized private insurance plan. If so, Humana is in big trouble. Astroturfing seniors is a violation of the strict rules the government imposes on communications with Advantage beneficiaries.

Public News Service reports that health care activist Joe Szakos goes on trial in Virginia today for allegedly trespassing while protesting insurance rate hikes. Szakos is a member of the Virginia Organizing Project, a non-profit social justice group seeking accountability from insurers.

Obama made his first speech to the United Nations (UN) yesterday at the UN Summit on Climate Change in New York. Nearly a hundred heads of state met to iron out differences face-to-face before the official negotiations on a global climate pact begin on Copenhagen on Dec 18. In RH Reality Check, Karen Hardee and Kathleen Mogelgaard explain the link between reproductive freedom and climate change. New research reaffirms that contraception could be a powerful tool to help fight global warming:

So how does reproductive health fit into this picture? A new study by the UK-based Optimum Population Trust and the London School of Economics shows the connection between contraceptives and climate change. The study concludes that universal access to reproductive health could be one of the most cost effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A Population Action International report from May detailed how population dynamics, not just overall growth, contribute to climate change.

Note that population activists aren’t saying that women in the developing world ought to have fewer children for the sake of the planet. They’re saying that societies grow in smarter, healthier, and ultimately greener ways when women have the power to control their own fertility.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets.

by tsweden under Creative Commons via FLIKR
By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium


Jo S.
Jo S2 years ago

Thank you Cynthia.

Marion Y.
Marion Y8 years ago

The Public Option LIVES!!!!

For months now D.C. insiders and T.V. blowhards have said the public option is dead, but Senator Michael Bennet (CO) just proved them wrong and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Jeff Merkley (OR), and Sherrod Brown (OH) have already stood up to join him.

These four Senate Healthcare Heroes are circulating a letter calling on Majority Leader Reid to use reconciliation to pass healthcare reform with the choice of a public option.


Thanks to your hard work, 120 House Democrats signed and delivered the Polis/Pingree letter to Harry Reid a little over a week ago.

Four Senate Healthcare Heroes saw that leadership and your hard work -- and aren't sitting around and hoping for change -- they're taking the lead and making it happen.

Think of it this way: if this was a football game, House Democrats threw the Senate a Hail Mary pass and these four Senators just caught it. But now, they have to score the touchdown. That means we need to call on other Senators to join them.

So today, members of Democracy for America, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, CREDO Action, and MoveOn are calling their Senators and demanding they sign Senator Bennet's Public Option letter too -- and join these Healthcare Heroes in fighting for real reform.

We won't quit until we win.

Charles Chamberlain, Political Director

Chuck Roomi
Chuck Roomi8 years ago

Don't be fooled. Without a real single Payer Option, this isn't actually health care reform.

All the Right-wing nutjob's cries of "Socialism" are just serving as a distraction for those of us who want Single Payer.

But Obama and congress wont push for it unless WE push them.

Carol S.
Carol S8 years ago

Love the "sacrificing one for the many" argument. One of my Canadian friends tells this story for those who fear that sort of thing with a public health care system. His daughter was born premature with Downs, which is obvious at birth. She required intensive neonatal care, months of hospitalization, and extensive follow-up. She is an adult now and receives services for people with disabilities. The cost to her family? $).

Beverly Caro
Bev Caro8 years ago

I voted for Barack Obama because I believed in the things that he said he stood for, but now, I am not sure where our President stands on health care reform. He has spoke at many different forums. He says that he is for a public option in this bill to reform health care, but I agree with the above article, the way he described the public option, he made it sound as if it would be the last resort for "losers".

My vision of a public option would be tied to the way Medicare is administered. We should all be able to have a choice of taking the public option, and the cost should be tied to the cost of Medicare so that if mandated, we would be able to afford the price of coverage.

How can the USA call itself a moral nation when everything that is done must produce a profit? How can a political party that includes the religious right deny health care to people because they lack money to pay for it? This is the part of our Country that is addicted to greed and power. I don't know where these people go to church, because I was always taught that greed is wrong. I believe with every fiber of my being that treating our citizens well according to their income level is wrong. All citizens deserve affordable health care now!!

Mike Mitchell
Mike Mitchell8 years ago

I hope we see that every Amercian has heath care but i think that the Republicans and the Insurance CEOS will fight us every step of the way.

Brother Bernardine

Health Inurance firms are just further examples of how something useful to the health system, can be deformed by greed and gain. So Strong Government controls must be applied to keep the rogues honest and accountable to the needs of the public.

Gabriela A.
Gabriela A8 years ago

In response to Opheeliya Fire-Kracker :

First of all, learn how to spell. Secondly, what on Earth are you trying to say? You are making absolutely no sense. If you are responding to a persons comment, you should say who you are responding to. That being said, each bill presented does have positive points but no one bill is good on it's own. The issue is about Money. The Right wants the status quo because they support the completely 'free market' ideal (which does Not work.) The Left, for the most part, supports regulation and a government or Public option which goes against the Right's Free Market Ideal. The simple fact is that Any reform that mandates health insurance for all people Has to have a public option or it will guarantee bankruptcy for many Americans. The Right has a history of being selfish, greedy and cold hearted to the plight of the poor and we all know it. Too much capitalism is a bad thing. So is too little. When it comes to health care-less capitalism is a good thing. Medicine is not supposed to be a BUSINESS. There will be a public option. 2/3 of the American people Demand one.

Lee G.
Lee G8 years ago

Several appeals for money state that is a referrendum on Health Care. So far, the comparison is bad news. Millions of people and their dollars are not supporting the Democrats, while Republican lightning rods are collecting big checks. The actions of our government continue to prop up the profiteers and gloss over peoples' real problems.

Jaette C.
Jaette Carpenter8 years ago

Remember this, people that are incarcerated have much better health insurance than the average middle class person. Why?