Explainers: Public Option & more
Our previous post talked about a healthcare "public option" and a "death spiral." Here's what these and other terms mean.
Public Option. What exactly is a healthcare "public option"? How does it differ from single-payer universal healthcare, Medicare for All? Why is it really just a scam? Two leading public health researchers and M4A advocates explain: https://www.thenation.com/article/insurance-health-care-medicare.
Death Spiral. In health insurance, what is a "death spiral"? Generally, insurers game the system, profiting from healthy people while pushing older, sicker people onto other plans, usually public plans where taxpayers bear the unequal cost. Eventually, the system breaks under the burden of this escalating imbalance — while private insurers make out like bandits. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_spiral_%28insurance%29.
Risk Pool. In health insurance — unless profiteers have gamed the system — the bigger the risk pool, the better. A risk pool consists of all the people being covered. A true single-payer system will cover all 330 million US residents in a single huge, stable, predictable risk pool — equitable and extremely cost-efficient.
#HealthDividend. Efficiency is a key to single-payer's anticipated cost savings. Single-payer Medicare for All will actually cost less overall than what we as a nation are paying today. For details, see https://medicareforall.weebly.com/health-dividend.html on this site.
Simplicity, Taxes, and More. Efficiency also stems from single-payer's simplicity and other factors. By contrast, private insurers are about seven times less efficient. Yet the bulk of cash they rake in, comes from the public purse — from our taxes. So why don't we call this endless Niagara of public money cascading to private insurers, "taxes"? Good question! Why do we complain about taxes but continue paying these profiteers without a whimper? Another good question! Michael Moore wonders too: https://youtu.be/yL722wpTdus?t=923.
Enough is enough. It's time to demand that our members of Congress enact single-payer Medicare for All.
"Public option" death spiral
Rightwingers are aiming to kill urgently needed single-payer universal healthcare, Medicare For All (M4A). They are proposing a "public option" that would leave power, control and profits in private insurers' hands. (How's that been workin' for ya?)
Case in point: corporate mainstream news spotlighted Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and "Medicare for All" again this morning, Monday 10/28/19. https://www.npr.org/2019/10/28/773397337/elizabeth-warrens-ambiguity-on-health-care-comes-with-some-side-effects
NPR's so-called 'centrist' slant: M4A is hurting Warren's candidacy, Warren is wavering on M4A, M4A is unpopular with voters, and Sanders is increasingly isolated on M4A. M4A is "too expensive" for voters to support; people are more likely to accept a "public option." Warren is more likely than Sanders to be "pragmatic" on this issue (that is, cave to the corporate rightwing 'centrists').
IMO, directly or indirectly this narrative has Third Way's fingerprints all over it. Third Way is the rightwing-funded 'stink tank' allied with Joe Biden.
RIGHTWINGERS BAIT THE HOOK.
As a corporate media sockpuppet, NPR today clearly signaled to Elizabeth Warren what position she needs to take if she wants the support of old business-as-usual Democratic Party regulars. Basic message: "Betray single-payer and we'll embrace you." In the most explicit way to date, they've baited the hook.
HOW DO WE COUNTERATTACK?
We M4A advocates must flip the script by attacking the bait, the "public option" itself (and, by extension, other crappy incremental non-solutions). We must hammer hard on these raw, inconvenient truths:
(a) while rightwingers and their corporate media puppets call M4A "too expensive," in the long run it's really the "public option" that would be too expensive — triggering a "death spiral" in the healthcare economy;
(b) the "public option" death spiral will be driven by rightwing ideology, not economics (see item "a"); and
(c) the "public option" will still shut out millions of families while leaving private insurers in control. It's a nonstarter.
There could also be a fourth point: (d) the "public option" is racist because it would disproportionally hurt black and brown families. The harm would come from income inequality causing unequal access to a "public option" buy-in. Harm would also come simply from depriving folks of comprehensive universal healthcare.
DEATH PANELS, MEET DEATH SPIRAL.
In item "a," I mentioned a "death spiral." We are ripping this page from the rightwing playbook. Remember "death panels"? A Big Lie, but it lived on everyone's lips and made big political impacts. Even today, people remember this phrase. (2019 marks the tenth anniversary of the "death panels" meme — a newsworthy factoid we could turn to our advantage.)
Glance over the history of "death panels." In the far right's 2009 fight against Obamacare, this term was coined by Sarah Palin, America's version of poisoned Halloween candy. "Death panels" emerged from a false narrative about doctors counseling old people on how to die. It was so devastatingly effective, PolitiFact named it Lie of the Year. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_panel
Note: While we abhor morally bankrupt rightwingers and their lies, we had better learn from these masters of influencing audiences. We should do what works (pragmatism), but tell truth not lies (principle).
I propose that our version of the catchy "death panel" meme should be the "death spiral:" an ideology- and greed-driven dynamic that can collapse the broken US healthcare system like a house of cards. It's not a new idea, only now placed at the center of a specific narrative.
TURNING THE TABLES.
Is this fearmongering? Yep. We're going to flip this rightwing strategy back on the "looters in suits" who are using it to deprive millions of families of the comprehensive healthcare they desperately need. Except in our case we're peddling fear grounded in truth.
The right wing is falsely scaring people away from single-payer Medicare for All. We aim to legitimately scare people away from the public option.
Ira Dember is a Houston progressive activist, strategic communications expert, and founder of MedicareForAll.us.