Health Reform II: Return of the Public Option

July 26, 2010

It seems Washington, D.C., is taking a lead from Hollywood: When you have a hit, something that grabs headlines, rush a sequel into production even if it seems too soon. In this case, the sequel is the dreaded “public option,” left on the cutting room floor for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but now getting its own spin-off in the form of a new bill sponsored by a trio of U.S. House Democrats.

It seems Washington, D.C., is taking a lead from Hollywood: When you have a hit, something that grabs headlines, rush a sequel into production even if it seems too soon.

In this case, the sequel is the dreaded “public option,” left on the cutting room floor for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but now getting its own spin-off in the form of a new bill sponsored by a trio of U.S. House Democrats.

Reps. Pete Stark (D-Cal.), Lynn Woolsey (D-Cal.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) have released H.R. 5808, “the Public Option Act.” Yep -- the same plan for a government-run insurance program to compete with insurance companies is back and bigger than ever. It divided the Senate and House, caused insurance companies to spend billions to defeat it and almost completely derailed healthcare reform.

The trio, citing data from the Congressional Budget Office, say the public option would save $68 billion from 2014 to 2020 and provide American citizens with premiums, on average, 5 to 7 percent lower than those plans in health insurance exchanges, the online marketplaces where citizens can shop for coverage beginning in 2014.

Even President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have offered teasers to the next big battle in healthcare in our nation’s capitol.

So here we go again. Now we know the AMA and other doctors favored the public option in the early stages of reform talks, so it would stand to reason that they would still line up in support.

But as many physicians that would stand in line for a ticket to this sequel, we know that there are just as many, if not more, Republicans, insurance companies, and others that will be just as vocal in their reviews of this new attempt for a government-run plan.

Now we’ve seen what Washington, D.C., has done with Medicare and Medicaid. Do we really want these guys producing another medical plan or is it time they took their talents in another direction like the Hollywood producer or actor who has seen flop after flop released.

May I recommend television? Maybe even Broadway? But to bring back the public option with health reform in its infancy and many, many questions and benchmarks on the horizon, I don’t think the American public will be as anxious for this production as Stark, Woolsey, and Schakowsky think.