Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pickpockets and the Public Plan

Ever had your pocket picked? Chances are they charmed you, scared you, surrounded you - in short, distracted you while they grabbed your wallet. Enough said.

So let's get back to the important issue in health reform: the Public Plan. You can have health coverage that is better than what you have, that is more affordable, covers many more of us, and improves quality You need a strong public plan.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus isn't calling for a strong public plan, really. They should.

People who say a public plan can't work are wrong. They should reconsider.

A strong public plan should be open to everyone who's not on Medicare, beginning in 2010.

The House bill says it would start in 2013 - after the next presidential election - and include only a few of us - self-employed, unemployed, employees of small businesses.

The Senate is proposing to have no public plan at all - just a straight cash transfer to your friendly neighborhood insurance conglomerate. (Which is really a way of making sure nothing passes.)

Why does this matter? The public plan needs to have enough people in it so that it can do what Medicare does: influence how the rest of the system works. Bend the cost curve. Improve quality. Provide your doctor, nurse practitioner and acupuncturist with comparative effectiveness studies so you get better care on the first visit. This will scare some of the teabaggers and it apparently scares the hell out of the insurance industry.

This, however, is change we can believe in.

That plus one more thing: we need a state option for single payer, so we can take the next step towards truly universal coverage.

People are mobilizing in remarkable ways to demonstrate why we need real health reform now. Giving out free care to long lines of people in desperate need. Showing up in scrubs at Town Hall meetings. Explaining that Medicare is a government program and we like it.

We need to do one more thing: make it worth it when we win. Take a picket sign for a Real Public Plan. Tell your neighbors. Tell your member of Congress. Tell your talk shows. The insurance industry and their pickpockets do not speak for us. We need real health reform, and this is the time to fight for it.

Need some talking points? Go to

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