Thomas Oatway: ‘Public option’ must be part of insurance choices

Santa gives an encouraging bump to James Powell, 5, during a visit to the Henry Mayo Emergency Department. Signal file photo.

A May 25 Opinion piece by right-leaning contributor Steve Lunetta was an honest and accurate admission that free-market health care is doomed to failure as long as the insurance industry remains in control of costs and benefits.

The ACA (a.k.a. Obamacare) was compromised from the start by the failure to address a fatal flaw in the system: If insurers abandon a market, or competition ceases to exist, the system collapses.

When the ACA was being formulated in Congress, Democrats knew that they could never bring any GOP support on board, nor please their major campaign contributors in the insurance and medical provider industry, by inclusion of the dreaded “public option.”

Had this feature been incorporated, markets abandoned by the insurance industry would have had to compete with a government provider, one that might just keep them honest and fill a void. This major system flaw is now touted in claims that Obamacare is “collapsing.”

I am one who benefits from excellent Medicare health coverage, which blends government support and insurance participation. Thus I favor a single-payer federal system (Medicare for All).

With current Medicare, individuals who are not covered by employer-provided coverage receive basic hospitalization coverage, with optional access to physicians and drug coverage via Medicare Part B and D.

There is a place for the insurance industry to provide optional coverage for those who desire or require these benefits. Supplemental coverage options at different pricing levels could address conservative fears that government-controlled health care would result in rationing or delayed services.

An important benefit would be that hospitals and trauma centers would not be put in peril because everyone would have coverage for these services. As an aside, there would be no reason for Americans to elect bankruptcy because they could not afford health care.

The AHCA legislation passed by the GOP House, and supported by our own U.S. Rep. Steve Knight, would substantially reduce government support for medical costs and provide a major tax cut opportunity for wealthy individuals.

Rhetoric aside, it did virtually nothing to improve access to medical services for individuals without employer coverage. AHCA especially hurts those who depend upon Medicaid benefits.

It fails to protect those with pre-existing conditions and older Americans whose insurance costs will become unaffordable.

In doing so, the AHCA will certainly have a secondary cost benefit for the federal budget: Reducing future Medicare costs because significant numbers of Americans will not live long enough to qualify.


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