Dear MoveOn member,
Hi. I'm Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and currently a professor at the University of California.
You've probably heard about a possible "deal" in the Senate to do away with the public option.
I'm here to tell you that this is no deal: it's a gift to Big Insurance, plain and simple.
The details are sketchy. The only thing that's really clear is the deal would drop the public option from the bill. With no public option, there's no guarantee of real competition. And without real competition, health care costs will continue to be out of control.
But the deal is far from done. If voters generate a massive outcry around this and progressive leaders in Congress fight back, we can fix it.
Can you sign a petition to leaders in Congress and the White House right away?
The petition says: "You must make sure health care reform includes a real public option—it's what the majority of Americans want. Anything less is a gift to Big Insurance."
With no public option, the Senate "deal" is a giveaway to Big Insurance—and industry insiders admit it! One recently wrote "We WIN," in an email about the "deal."1
What's in this "deal"? Like I said, almost no one knows the details. That means that progressives who embrace it right now may be giving away the store without getting anything in return.
But here's what we do know: First, it might allow some 55-64 year-olds to buy into Medicare. Second, it might allow those without employer health insurance to buy private insurance the way federal employees do.2
So what's the problem here? A system of only private insurers simply will not control costs. Without competition from a public option, insurance companies have no incentive to compete—just like now.3
Enlarging Medicare is no answer. The Senate bill slows Medicare's costs only if they're rising faster than total health spending. But with private insurers running the show, total health spending will still be out of control.4 Plus, we have no idea how many people might be allowed to buy into Medicare, or if it will be even close to affordable for them.
Health care reform must include a strong public option. It's key to controlling costs, expanding coverage, and forcing Big Insurance to compete. Without it, we'll end up with a national health care system controlled by a handful of very large corporations accountable neither to American voters nor to the market. And that is not even close to real health care reform.
Please sign the petition to House and Senate leadership and the White House today. The deal is still up in the air. If congressional progressives hold strong—and public demand for a public option is clear—then White House and congressional leaders will have to do what they haven't: put pressure on the few conservative Democrats to get on board and help pass real health care reform with a public option.
Thank you for all you do.
2. "How a Few Private Health Insurers Are on the Way to Controlling Health Care," Robert Reich, December 10, 2009
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