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Reform or Relent?

Representative Pat Ingraham (R) of Thompson Falls has an op-ed piece in this morning’s Missoulian regurgitating tired Republican canards about health care reform. She begins with a statement that “our country has a health care system the rest of the world envies“. Well, hardly… A Pew Research Center poll of Americans found that “Just 15% say health care in this country is the “best in the world,” while 23% rate it as “above average”; about six-in-ten (59%) view U.S. health care as either “average” (32%) or “below average” (27%)“. The poll did find however that two-thirds of conservative Republicans believe American health care is above average. Responses were also tied to income level. “Roughly two-thirds (65%) of people with annual household incomes of less than $30,000 describe U.S health care as average or below average compared with other industrialized countries, while only about a third (32%) see it as the best in the world or above average. By comparison, half of Americans earning $100,000 or more say America’s health care is the best in the world or above average“.

In Montana, “The uninsured rate for Montana kids in poverty has increased from 19% to 29% in the last five years, while nationallydq_ad the number has dropped from 22% to 20%; the uninsured rate for all Montana kids has risen, too”. Montana has one of the highest rates of uninsured kids in the country. Hospitalized kids are twice as likely to die if they don’t have insurance and “Parents of uninsured children are seven times more likely to delay getting medical treatment for their child“. 150,000 Montanans are currently without health insurance. According to FamiliesUSA, the reform bill from the U.S. House would cover four-fifths of the uninsured in Montana or an additional 123,000 folks. That bill includes public option insurance.

80% of the health insurance coverage in Montana is controlled by two companies and four companies dominate the industry nationwide. We desperately need to overhaul the system and introduce more competition. Yet, Republicans like Ingraham continue to fight against any kind of reform that would include a public option. Ingraham, following the stale Republican Party talking points, sees the public insurance option as a “gateway to a government takeover of private insurance“. They claim that somehow, the government plan would have premiums so low that everybody would migrate to the public plan and decimate the private insurance industry. Then she turns right around and claims that with the government plan, “we will see a decrease in the quality of treatment“. It seems to me that Republicans want to have it both ways. They claim that a public plan would be much cheaper than private insurance, but at the same time, it would be so bloated and inefficient that it would only offer crappy health care. Does it make sense that everybody would sign up for a plan that doesn’t protect their health just because it is cheap? I don’t know about you, but I shop for health insurance based more on the coverage it provides rather than price alone. Right now, the two companies that dominate the market in Montana have no incentive to reduce costs, become more efficient and lower prices. A public health plan would force them to be more competitive and it is the only proposal that would.

The bill currently under consideration by Senator Baucus and the Finance committee would substitute co-ops for a public option. Co-ops are a worthless, cosmetic measure being proposed to placate the insurance industry. I can just see Blue Cross bending over backwards to satisfy the needs of the twelve people in the Wibaux County health co-op.

Don’t be fooled by Republican propaganda. Their talking points  and agenda come straight out of the insurance industry playbook. If we are to have any kind of real health care reform, the bill must include a public option and a requirement that large corporations provide health care options for their employees.


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