Bob Franken

Public Plan Isn’t Possible


I’m amazed at how we have all gotten sucked into the health care debate over a “public option.” People, there is not going to be a public option. There was never going to be. That was just a red herring, created by Rahm Emanuel or someone else in the White House who likes to play mind games with those who lose their minds at the prospect. It’s a decoy; it’s not real. Get over it.

Between the lines of President Barack Obama’s health care speech last week before Congress, it was clear there will still be only one option: the insurance company option. Even those who had been allowed to take their chances with no coverage, particularly the young, will lose that option. They will be required to buy policies. The insurance giants will be swollen with even more billions in revenue. No wonder they have been playing ball with the White House.

What does the president, and what do we, get in return?

Insurance companies will not be allowed to deny coverage to those who have “pre-existing conditions.”

Be very careful about this one. After all the final secret deals are made, will the lobbyists have succeeded with slipping in language that permits the companies to still impose prohibitively higher rates? Will the proposed requirement that they cannot cancel a policy after someone gets sick contain a similar loophole that allows them to charge much more?

That’s it, folks. In a nutshell, that’s the Faustian deal. Do not expect “health care reform” to mean “insurance company reform.” Insurance companies will still, willy-nilly, deny payments to millions who have valid claims, knowing full well that they can wear down the hapless souls who dare challenge them, only to get lost in the maze of Audix messages, dropped calls and unhelpful bureaucrats.

They will still deny coverage for lifesaving procedures and medications they have arbitrarily designated as “unnecessary” or “experimental” or “cosmetic.” They will still make doctors’ practices such a living hell that many will refuse to be part of their networks. They will still do whatever they want, knowing they can get away with it, no matter how many lives are lost in the name of profits.

None of that will change. A public option is not possible in our country. It is consumed by the flames that erupt at the first mention of the word “socialism.” Even those who benefit from Medicare or Medicaid or Veterans Affairs care — public options, by the way — go bananas every time they hear the S-word.

We’ll have legislation, all right. It will be called “health care reform.” Then someone can explain how we can have “reform” without real change.

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