Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich urges Senate Democrats to condemn false “bipartisanship” standing in the way of President Obama’s overhaul to the nation’s health care system in this news conference call. Reich said Democrats must support a public health insurance option because it’s the best way to control costs, citing evidence in a new report released by the Health Care for America Now coalition.
With health care costs skyrocketing, the report shows that the number of Americans in families with problems paying medical bills climbed to 57 million, or one in five, up from one in seven in 2003. Millions of these people have health insurance but are forced to go without essential care. Further, the lack of health insurance coverage causes 22,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
Reich said that many of the objections raised by opponents of the public plan are in fact the reasons why a public plan should be central to reform. Competition from a public plan would compel private insurance companies to change their practices in order to expand care at lower costs, he said.
He called on President Obama to "make it crystal clear" that he would not accept a health care reform bill that does not have a public option, and that he will not compromise on that in order to get Republican votes Noting that President George H. W. Bush famously rammed through a tax cut proposal without bipartisan support, "I hope the president does the same with health care."
Health care expert Jacob Hacker, who joined Reich on the call, defended the inclusion of a public health insurance option, calling it the best way to assure health care affordability, accountability and adequacy.
Hacker also highlighted a series of public opinion polls conducted this month by the Kaiser Foundation, Employee Benefit Research Institute, NBC/Wall Street Journal and CBS/New York Times that shows broad public support for a public health insurance option. About three-quarters of people polled favor creating a public option to compete with private health insurance plans.
Hacker and Reich also explained why state or regional health insurance cooperatives will not control costs, citing past experience of such co-ops mimicking the behavior and costs of larger for-profit companies.
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