As the national health care debate revs up, the forces of status quo (1.57 million North Carolinians uninsured, NC with fastest % growth in uninsured in US, costs skyrocketing) are conspiring to eliminate a key part of national reform – the public plan option.
Just like Americans have a choice between the Post Office and Fed Ex (or UPS, DHL, etc), they also should have a choice of a public health insurance option in addition to all the private options out there. This makes sense – after all, we need to have a guarantee that we can send a relative in places like Devils Lake, North Dakota a letter even if no private company would every want to deliver to such a remote location for anything except the highest fees. Let competition work where it will, but give people a simple and affordable option too because:
1. It provides choice. If you don’t like the private plans you can always go with the public one.
2. It will be high-quality with a choice of doctors. North Carolina has one of the most innovative and successful government-run Medicaid plans for families in the country – Community Care – that is delivering what is often a much higher quality of care than patients get with private insurance. It costs less too. Why? The system is built around a “back to basics” approach of emphasizing primary care and giving people an old-style medical home – a doctor and practice they know and trust over the years.
3. A public plan will save money. The public plan won’t have to spend on CEO bonuses, stock dividends, or fancy TV ads.
4. A public plan can’t close, go out of business, or target sick people to try and get them to drop the plan – i.e. through higher premiums. It will always be there.
5. For people who live in rural areas, or people who don’t have lots of money, or people with chronic health conditions, the public plan is a guarantee of fair, quality health coverage at an affordable price – a guarantee that can’t be taken away.
While other insurers can compete for business, any health reform plan should include a public option. It’s one we can’t afford to be without.