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Pulling the Plug on "Public Option"

We have an angry and despairing bunch of health-care reform advocates among our Readers Who Comment today. They berate a Post editorial that says the "public option" needs to disappear and call Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) all kinds of things for saying the time has come to do less, not more, to fix our dysfunctional health-care system.

Readers are furious with the editorial's conclusion that eliminating a public health insurance option from the legislation is "is not a matter of ideology but of political nose-counting." Sen. Grassley, one of the three Republicans supposedly working in the Senate Finance Committee to come up with a bipartisan bill, is seen as an evildoer in false clothing. The insurance companies are also the target of many barbs.

Those who want little or no change are smiling and relatively (but not completely) quiet on the comment boards.

We'll start with bitterpill8, who wrote, "One can always rely on a member of the editorial team to come up with a pro-insurance piece. This is an idotic contribution and does little to address the real concerns of most Americans: how to have good health at a reasonable price..."

But Realist20 said, "The Post is right - either Obama drops the Public Option or he does NOT get Health Reform. It's time Obama stands up to the far left wing of the Democratic party - if he doesn't, then he immediately becomes Jimmy Carter II."

Nodoubt1 wrote, "Your editorial does not explain how the continuing rise in premiums would be slowed or reversed without powerful leverage against the insurance companies in the form of a public option. And unless those increases are slowed, the program, and our nation, will go down in bankruptcy..."

ebw343 wondered, "Why do liberals think that there is such a thing as a free lunch? Someone has to pay for expanded entitlements -- that someone is taxpayers, and polls show clearly they don't want more debt. All leading economists agree that if you want to "bend the curve" you have to tax health benefits."

rodneythecat wrote, "Uh, the current plan also mandates that individuals and companies buy insurance. With no public option to provide competition, I think progressives ought to demand that theses mandates be taken out of the bill also. After all why should I be forced to subsidize insuance companies fighting against my best interests if there is no alternative plan to keep them honest?..."

jhough1 wrote, "...The Democrats would literally be suicidal as a party not to pass the public opinion."

B2O2 asked, "Why do so many Republican rank-and-file folks hate themselves so much? Why do they lay down their lives and their families' lives so gullibly in service to the health insurance companies who hold them in such contempt.[?]..."

Lorberrys predicted that "In the absence of a single-payer or some sort of public sponsored insurance option, all that will be left will be a multitude of legislative tweaks of the abysmal status quo, the sheer volume of which will only serve to mask what an utter failure the entire effort will have been ... except for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and their lobbyists, from which the sound of champagne corks popping will be unmistakable."

Aformerjournalist said, "...That the public option is a fixation of the left is a vile, flat-out lie, a corporate talking point. Wherever one hears this lie, one knows one is dealing with corporate propagandists whose intent is to deceive and exploit the American people rather than give the American people the policies they want."

dem4evr wrote, "3 things must happen this year.
1.mandatory participation
2.remove pre-existing condition clause from private insurance.
3.create catastrophic plan to back stop insurance plans.
incrementalism is the key here. carefully move, measure, then respond...."

DOps said, "...For Obama -- this is the time for real leadership. He should step up and take the option off the table and have the Congress craft a bill without it. No games, no secret provions which could be construed as getting a public option administratively later -- just get a good bill..."

All comments on the editorial are here.

Now to the comments on the Grassley story.

Matthew_DC wrote, "...Please help me with this: I understand that a public option will drive out private business and lead to socialized medicine, which is socialism, which is the system which killed 100m people in the 20th century, so this vote is really about whether hundreds of millions of Americans are going to die. All that nonsense is perfectly clear. What is not clear is: why do most of the countries with which we have military alliances have "socialized medicine"? UK? Canada? The rest of NATO?... And why haven't hundreds of millions of their citizens been killed since they introduced socialized medicine back in the 1950s/60s?..."

elbartels said, "Note to the GOP. You lost. Why in the world are the Democrats allowing this group of head in the sand know-nothings to hijack and control the legislative and political agenda?"

To which coloradodog replied, "Excellent question. I think it is because they're not guerrilla fighters like Cheney and Rove who use Limbaugh hate radio and RNC Fox News to scare and anger granny to leave her soap operas to go out to raise hell at town meetings..."

FellowTraveler said, "Grassley spreads misinformation that drives public fear and then says we should scale back because of that fear? Give us a break!"

cats2 said, "We need to understand as a populace how dishonest the campaign against health care reform really is. We don't have to fall for this. It's our country not the insurance companies'."

mmcgowan1 wrote, "Sen. Grassley has made it clear that there is no version of health care reform that he could support. Like other members of his party, he is more interested in gaining political advantage than watching out for the interests of the American people. He has actively spread misinformation and lies about the proposed reform efforts and is a disgrace as a US senator."

All comments on the Grassley article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  August 20, 2009; 6:41 AM ET
 | Tags: Grassley, Health-Care Reform, Public Option  
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Next: Where Are the Real Journalists?


I have been reading from the reports of "psychic" people who have never lived in Canada but who have such deep insight into Canada's Health Care system. Yes, they predicted it: today I was required to wait in the doctor's office for the undignified time of 20 minutes. I actually had time to read a complete article called "How I Cheated on my Husband" from one of those Canadian Women's magazines. Now, this is not the first, but the second time I had to wait that long. (I, who's job is to attend to my retirement details on a daily basis.) And, if that wasn't enough to suffer, my doctor was on a TWO WEEK vacation - probably playing golf or something. I had to actually choose another doctor, a woman doctor at that! Though I could have chosen any doctor I wanted, but it would require a 15 minute drive rather than the 2 minutes it takes me to get to the Clinic in our town of 1200 people. Can you imagine the entire cost of time and extra gas to travel the required distance?
My wife recently had two major operations - but digest this - even though we also have American Medicare, she decided to suffer through Canadian socialist incompetence and not to travel to the experts that only live south of the border (20 miles away). One of her Canadian surgeons was trained in South Africa, imagine that, AFRICA! So far, her surgeries have not cost us anything. But look out. I now know it really did cost us (hidden in taxes, which are roughly the same as the US.) Besides, I find out from our experts from the States, we will surely be truly paying a horrendous cost for this "free" medical for this sooner or later even though Canada's national debt per capita is far less than the US.

Further Canadian propaganda:

- Canadian Health Care is roughly 1/2 the cost per capita of the US
- When comparing “death from all causes" to "death from preventable causes by health care" Canada rates 4th from the top while US rates 4th from the bottom. (19 of the most industrialized countries were considered in this study).
- Everyone is covered by Canadian Single Payer System (a clever George Orwell Newspeak statement meaning SOCIALISM).
- Canadians live several years longer that those in the US (Canada is number 5 in longevity compared to other nations - US is closer to 50) . Must be something in the water.

And to top it off my youngest daughter says she cannot get health insurance in the US due to a minor medical condition - slight spine curvature.

Surely she is misinformed.

My best to you lucky people who live under the FREE MARKET system.

Posted by: dector | August 21, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

If you want cheaper care, let's talk sensible ways of driving down costs.

(1) Why can't insurance companies compete across state lines? That seems anti competitive; a lack of competition can't be good for costs. We don't need a public option to open up the market, we just need to open up the market.

(2) Insurance costs for docs are outrageous and they pass that cost along (plus a few extra CYA tests too) for good measure to you and me. Of course, to be fair to docs, if they screw up, you better believe we'll sue so hard that our kids kids will never have to work. Where's the outcry for limiting tort rewards to bring insurance costs for docs back into the stratosphere? What do the Candians/UKians/Australians do about this?

(3) How about medical records? I love filling out the same form for the first thirty minutes of every doctor and dentist I go to. I don't know how much it costs, but it costs something more than if they were kept electronically in a central location, but I'm sure docs are happy to pass along those operating costs to us...of course we don't care because...

(4) We don't shop around for preventative care; Insurance covers it. There's no incentive for us to call BS on a doc that takes 12 xrays instead of 6. Doctors offices don't compete on price for preventative care. Shielding doctors from competition for non-emergencies isn't providing what would normally be downward pressure on price.

After addressing the cost drivers, create an individual mandate, remove pre-existing condition restrictions, provide access to everyone, but don't for one second think that a public plan that is not motivated by profit will do a better job of fairly and efficiently allocating health care resources than a private, profit motivated company.

Posted by: SamBezos | August 21, 2009 12:53 AM | Report abuse

We need a public option, to bring down the cost of health care. I heard the discourse of the group Patients First on NPR today and no wonder they are against health care reform. None of what the Patients First group states that they repeated on NPR is in any of the bills. At least the spokesperson for the group named several changes to health care that the health care reform bills do not contain. Misinformation may kill health care reform. That would be a shame.

Posted by: nkelly1 | August 20, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

* A Nation of No Losers *

We do not let you be a loser!
Your mistakes will be rewarded handsomely.

When you bought a clunker that you should not have, we give you $4,500.
When you bought a mansion that you cannot afford, we're going to bail you out.

When you lost your job, we extend your benefit.

When you do not have saving, we give you free health care.
When you have saving or a job, we take away your health care.

Teenagers, the more babies you have, the more benefits you have.
Drunk drivers, no one will prosecute you as the entire jury and even the judge are drunk.
Old ladies, your driver's license is also a license to kill.
Fatsos, do not worry as our up-coming drugs will melt all your fat while you sleep.

All athletes are rewarded with millions for taking drugs.
We voice loudly and disapprovingly on foreign athletes doing same.
It is an America invention!

When you cheated billions, you can retire in a resort-like 'prison'.
Also, the billions your wife hid is hers - no questions asked.

No other country lets their citizens own guns.
NRA and his puppet politicians will give you millions of funny 'reasons'.

When your company fails, we bail it out.
The executives are rewarded with bailout money for bringing down a company.

You die penniless, we give you $500.
You die with millions, we share your wealth.

The small catch.
We need you to re-elect us in 4 years.

The children cannot vote today, so let's pass our debts to them.
China does not have a voice here, so let's pass all the blames to them.

Posted by: TonyP4 | August 20, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Only the remaining right wing extremist Republicans are screaming. These are the same ideologues who, not only hate the idea of any government, have gone out of their way to prevent it from functioning effectively. Add to the mix the white, evangelical Obama-haters who try to intimidate by marching around Presidential events with their questionable second amendment rights (Scalia must be so proud) slung over their shoulders and carrying signs calling for the blood feeding of the "Tree of Liberty". Jefferson would roll over in his grave.

The Republicans have taken themselves out of discussion by supporting these whackos. They had their chance and blew it. Obama knows it, the Health Insurance companies know it. The Pharmaceutical companies know it.

A public option will be passed. Then we can move to a single payer. Not provider, payer. The distinction will be lost on those Medicare recipients that scream about socialist health care.

Posted by: thebobbob | August 20, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Americans elected GW Bush twice, why on earth would you think we do things that are good for us? We are basically a bunch of easilly brainwashed idiots. What an embarrassment.

Posted by: dem4life1 | August 20, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse


More than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 76% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (85% of democrats, 71% of independents, and 60% of republicans). Basically everyone.

AND NO INSURANCE MANDATES OR TAX PAYER SUBSIDIES WITHOUT A STRONG GOVERNMENT-RUN PUBLIC OPTION ON DAY ONE! An insurance mandate and subsidies without a strong government-run public option choice on day one, would be a DISASTER! And it would be worse than the GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT HEALTH INSURANCE HORROR! SHOW you have now. YOU MUST MAKE CERTAIN!! THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN AMERICA.

The healthcare reform bills released by the first two committees of the House Of Representatives are excellent bills as I understand them. They are bills with a strong, robust, government-run public option, and an intelligent, reasonable initial funding plan to cover almost all of the American people. They are carefully written, and thoughtfully constructed, informed, prudent and wise. These bills will save trillions of dollars, and millions of your lives. They are also now supported by the AMA.

These are the type of bills that all Americans can feel good about. And these are the type of bills that have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of healthcare for all Americans. Rich, middle class and poor a like. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and all other party affiliations. These bills have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life of every American.

The house healthcare bills released by the first two committees should be viewed as the minimum GOLD STANDARD by which all other proposed healthcare legislation should be judged. All supporters of true high quality healthcare reform should now place all your support behind these healthcare reform bills released by the first two committees of the United States House Of Representatives, as the minimum Gold standard for healthcare reform in America.

You should all now support the first two committees bills with all your might, and all of your unrelenting tenacity. These first two House committees healthcare bills are VERY, VERY GOOD! bills for all of the American people. Fight tooth, and nail for every bit of these bills if you have too. Be aggressive, creative, and relentless for these bills.

From this time forward, go BIGGER and DEEPER with the American people every day until passage of healthcare reform with a robust, government-run public option.

FIGHT!! like your life and the lives of your loved ones depends on it. BECAUSE IT DOES!


Senator Bernie Sanders on healthcare (


God Bless You

Jack Smith — Working Class

Posted by: JackSmith1 | August 20, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

As a longtime user of government-provided healthcare (Medicare), know this: The distortions and outright fabrications undermining the public option are without merit, emanating from that same greed merchant whose objective is the bankruptcy of America!

The Public Option restores some semblance of the long-missing Law of Supply & Demand (i.e., competition)and THAT is NOT something with which the greed merchants want to contend!

Will Obama have the character and fortitude to stand up to big money lobbyists?

We can only hope.

Posted by: rin1010 | August 20, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

As a Canadian observing the U.S. healthcare debate from afar, all I can say is "Wow". I'm shocked and saddened by the level of misinformation being thrown around about government run healthcare.

Obama is trying to give your citizens a fundamental improvement in quality of life, one that many people in the developed world take for granted, and you treat it like somebody threatened your family!

Government run healthcare is not socialism for pete's sake! It's simply another government program for the good of all citizens, like the military, the post office, the FDA, you name it. This is what governments are SUPPOSED to do. No citizen should be denied access to health care. Going to a doctor should not be about how big your bank account is. How can you blindly mistrust your own elected government, and yet place whole hearted trust in insurance companies? Do the insurance companies do any less 'rationing' of services than the gov't would? Do insurance companies not have bureaucrats at the helm?

I feel sorry for Obama, and for America. You're SO close to getting something the rest of the civilized world enjoys, and you just won't take it. As your doctor would say, "Take your medicine -- it might taste funny at first, but it's good for you."

Or you can continue bankrupting large numbers of your population for the terrible sin of getting sick. That's "less expensive". Uh huh.

Posted by: burnspost | August 20, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

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