Why We Need a Public Option
A public option could provide for the uninsured, what unemployment provides for the unemployed: temporary help when it is needed.
There is an assumption in this country that medicine should be a profit making business. At first glance, a high income seems fair enough reward for medical professionals who spend years pursuing their educations, who endure demanding work, and who contribute to the betterment of society. However, medicine as a profit making business has negative consequences. And unfortunately those negative consequences fall on those who cannot afford to purchase the service.
While making a sizable profit drives both people and pharmaceutical companies to work and research to their highest capacities, it also interferes with what should be the purpose of medicine. That purpose should be to help people who need medical care. In other words, it should help sick people get better.
In this society one has to purchase good health care. And most of the time that purchasing power is tied to employment. A person’s ability to afford good health care is usually tied to his or her occupation. But a public option could do for those who are temporarily out of insurance, what unemployment insurance does for those who are temporarily out of employment.
A public option is not meant to take away from any existing health insurance options. What it does do is recognize that too many Americans go without health care and consequently good health because they simply cannot afford it.
An Internet search on primary causes of personal bankruptcy will provide page after page of articles about how medical costs account for over 60% of all personal bankruptcies. What would it mean to our economy if we could wipe out 60% of personal bankruptcies. Perhaps the money spent on those sky-high medical bills and then on the attorney’s fees could be invested in other areas of the economy.
My own relationship with health insurance has fluctuated greatly over the years, and the fluctuations have revolved around employment. I have experienced wonderful health insurance through my ex-husband’s job, which with the exception of a single co-pay paid in my first visit, covered every other doctor’s visit, and test I received during my pregnancy. However, there was a time when my ex-husband was self-employed. It was at that time that I learned how much private insurance cost and how little it covered. As a female of childbearing age, there were various plans that covered or didn’t cover pregnancy. IN addition as a diagnosed migraine sufferer, none of the health insurance companies would cover anything related to migraines.
So, the health insurance I did eventually purchase would not cover anything related to migraines for three years. That meant that the primary reason I needed insurance in the first place was not covered. I ended up having to pay the monthly premium, as well as any migraine related doctor’s visit or medication.
Luckily, I had not been diagnosed with any chronic debilitating diseases such as multiple sclerosis, which I believe would have rendered me uninsurable period. Again, a person needing insurance for a specific health problem is unable to get the coverage needed.
We need to rethink our assumptions about what it means to have health care in this country. We also need to stop being so self-centered that we would deny our fellow citizens insurance because we think it will mean we will lose our own. There is room in our health care system for a variety of options. We shouldn’t have to be the last industrialized nation to offer it’s citizens a public insurance option, but we are.