Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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Public Option for Health Care Insurance

By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Staff Writer

Being uninsured can be nerve racking. Even if a person watches their diet, and is as cautious as can be, an illness or injury can be right around the corner.

Eat a bad burger for a restaurant can lead to food poisoning. If you are not insured you will either have to pay a high medical bill, or you will just have to ride that one out and hope for the best.

You can trip and fall at the local park, and if you get a nasty cut, you better hope that you do not need to be stitched up, and you better hope that the wound will not get infected.

There are so many illnesses and injuries that can just pop up on a person. If you have health insurance then you have options. If you do not, good luck.

The scary thing is that about 47 million Americans are hoping for a lot of luck, because they do not have insurance. That's about 15% of the country. The Black community is hit even harder, where about 20% is uninsured. That's one in five! There are about 8 million uninsured children, and about 25% of lower income citizens are uninsured.

Whatever the change may be, there needs to be some type of change, and fast.

Public option looks like it is the answer.

The public option as proposed in the House health care bill, is a government-run health insurance plan, like Medicare, that would compete along side private insurers in a new Health Insurance Exchange that the bill would set up.

The exchange is basically a place where people who aren't on Medicare or Medicaid and do not have insurance through their employers would go to comparison shop for a health plan. One of the plans available on the exchange would be the public option. Like all plans on the exchange, the public plan would have to meet certain minimum standards for care--minimum services that must be covered, mental health benefits parity, a fair grievance and appeals mechanism, etc._

The public option and the private insurers on the exchange could still offer different levels of care--from catastrophic-only to comprehensive--but plans would be relatively standardized by type so that comparison shopping is easier for consumers. The exchange would be available to the public as a website and a toll-free hotline, and would be focused on making information about the plans more transparent.

"The president's reform proposal isn't a single-payer plan like Medicare--that was already ruled off the table," said Rev. Jesse Jackson. "It isn't a socialized medicine. It allows people to keep the insurance they have, while mandating businesses--other than small businesses--to provide health care for their employees. For those small business employees and other individuals without health care at work, it offers an "exchange" where you can select from many private insurance plans--just as congressional legislators do--pooling the individuals to help lower costs. One of those choices, under the Obama plan, would be a public insurance option like Medicare that would help keep the insurance companies honest and, through competition, put a lid on prices.

"Not surprisingly, the insurance companies hate it. They want the guarantee of millions of new customers without any restraint on prices or practices. Obama's plan would force them to make significant changes in the ways they do business. They can't refuse you insurance if you are already sick. They can't cut off your insurance if you get sick. They can't discriminate against women in health-care rates. These are big deals. And insurance companies have been ready to accept them so long as they could continue to ratchet up rates on millions of new customers. That's why they hate the public option so much. It would derail their gravy train."

Jackson's son compares the public option to the post office.

"Look at it this way," Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said. "There's Federal Express, there's UPS, and there's DSL. The public option is like a stamp. It's email. Because of the email system, and the stamp, it keeps DSL or UPS from charging $100 for an overnight letter. Without the public option in terns if health care, we will continue the same system that leaves 47 million Americans without health care."

Category: Local




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