The Public Option: Political Laetrile

Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!

— George Carlin

Back in the 70s preliminary, incomplete results on a substance called Laetrile were released indicating that this derivative from apricot pits inhibited the growth of cancerous tumors in mice. In short order, Americans went wild at the idea that a cure for cancer had been found. Although subsequent reports were released indicating that Laetrile showed no beneficial effects, groups of its proponents continued to preach the gospel of Laetrile. In fact, Laetrile not only has no effect as a cure for cancer, it is highly toxic substance. Nevertheless a quick trip to your search engine will show you that there are plenty of companies willing to sell you the substance now marketed as Vitamin B-17!

Another quick trip to your search engine will take you to a variety of Democrat Party discussion groups where you will hear people singing the praises of Obama’s “public option” health care plan — political Laetrile!

The authentic fix to our corporate-based, profit-driven, 37th-ranked healthcare system is called “universal single-payer health care”. No, it is not the socialized medicine of England. It is a healthcare system which is publicly financed and privately delivered. A form of it is already in place. It is called Medicare. There are no government bureaucrats “between” patient and physician. There are however insurance company bureaucrats between patient and physician in the privately controlled corporate healthcare programs currently in place. Worst of all however, the proposition that the so-called “public option” will be a significant change to the current system is simply preposterous.

Under the “public option” millions of Americans will remain uninsured whereas under single-payer there will be universal coverage. Everyone is in; no one is out! Under the public option, people can buy into the plan, keep private insurance or be uninsured. Under the “public option” the private insurance companies will continue to strip down policies and increase patients co-payments and deductibles whereas under single-payer coverage, all medically necessary services will be provided. The “public option” will be managed by the private insurers! Under the public option the cost of healthcare is expected to increase by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years while under the single-payer plan, there will be a $350 billion savings in administrative wastes each year and no net increase in health-care spending. In essence we will save $350 billion just in administrative waste and experience further systemic savings through negotiated fee schedules with physicians, global budgeting of hospitals, bulk purchasing of pharmaceuticals, and rational planning of capital expenditures. With the public option we will actually be adding further layers of administrative bloat to our healthcare system through the introduction of the larger regulator/broker “exchange”.

With the single-payer plan large scale cost controls will ensure that benefits are sustainable over the long term whereas, with the “public option”, uncontrolled costs ensure that any gains in coverage are quickly erased as government is forced to hike spending or slash benefits.

The public option will be in competition with the private, for-profit health insurance companies whereas there will be no such competition under universal single-payer healthcare. In fact, private insurance would be used only for supplemental or special needs and ultimately the private insurance companies would close their doors. Who would want to pay twice as much for a system that has caused the American healthcare system to be ranked as 37th in the world in terms of quality of health care delivered?

Under the single-payer plan “cherry picking” (picking only the most healthy Americans to insure — meaning the less costly) would be eliminated whereas under the “public option” the private insurance companies would continue to have the option of choosing to insure only those “less sick” which would consequently force the sick into the more expensive “public option” or continue to leave them with no health care at all. Moreover, under single-payer the costs of the system are distributed across the entire population whereas under the Democrats’ “public option”, costs are shifted to the sickest of the privately insured with the “public option” then ultimately having to pick up the sickest members of the population and bearing the associated significant costs across a much narrower population.

Of course under the single-payer concept, there are no pre-existing conditions for coverage while under the “public option” legislation the private insurance companies would continue to deny coverage to such people, forcing them to purchase the “public option” plan.

Unfortunately only a few members of Congress support the plan over 70% of the American people demand — universal single-payer healthcare. The “public option” has sown within itself the seeds of nemesis: it is designed to fail. This way the Republicans will blame the Democrats for the failure of health care reform while at the same time retaining the huge contributions they receive, along with the Democrats, from the HMOs and private healthcare insurance corporations. Moreover, the “public option” plan will effectively delay meaningful health care reform — single payer — for another twenty years.

The lead apostle of this public option for the Democrats is Howard Dean. Last Friday, tragically, he was a guest on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now”. His appearance was announced the day before so that listeners could call in or send e-mails containing questions that would be asked of Howard Dean — the 2004 Democrat presidential candidate who took more contributions from healthcare insurance companies and HMOs than even corporate owned John Kerry. Of the hundreds of e-mails and telephone calls containing questions for this long-time proponent of corporate healthcare, only two were ever asked!

Perhaps we have begun to expect too much of Amy Goodman. She and her sidekick, Juan Gonzalez, even allowed Howard Dean to make the outrageous statement that we are in Afghanistan to help the Afghani women! By this time in the interview the knowledgeable listener had become becoming dizzy and bleary-eyed and just for a moment might have believed to have heard Howard Dean say: “I’m not a liberal but I play one on television”. Unabashedly this guy calls himself “a social liberal and a fiscal conservative”. That is, of course, the political definition of a member of the Libertarian Party. But Libertarians are against war so essentially that makes Howard Dean closer to the proverbial “compassionate conservative” George Bush than it does to Democrats like John Conyers or Dennis Kucinich.

Under the “public option” legislation, no subsidies are provided for individuals or families which have an income that is 400% of the federal poverty level. What does that mean? It means that for a family of four, that threshold is an income of $88,200 (that’s 400% of $22,050 which is the 2009 “poverty income level” for a family of four). Thus if you have a family of four and make $88,200 you get hit for 19% of your family income for health care – that’s $16,758 a year!! More for those with greater needs! By no stretch could that be considered what corporate Democrat Howard Dean calls “affordable”.

It doesn’t take an MBA to see that health insurance and health care are no longer affordable for average-income individuals. Any reform proposal that would make health care affordable for everyone must include a transfer from the wealthy to average- and low-level income families and individuals. Any member of Congress, who votes for the “public option” should be, if it passes, forced to drop out of their congressional plan and sign on to the “public option”. How many, one is constrained to wonder, would vote for the legislation under such a circumstance?

The “public option” healthcare system, managed by the private healthcare insurance companies, that Obama and congress are duping the American public into accepting, really amounts to a bailout of those insurers. A bailout of healthcare corporations which have caused 18,000 Americans to die every year because they have had no coverage! A bailout of healthcare corporations which have caused 50 million Americans to live in fear and anxiety because they cannot afford healthcare insurance! A bailout of the healthcare corporations which continue to finance the political campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain who have put the interests of their corporate pay masters before the health of the American people!

The “public option” scam was designed to push the “Single Payer” healthcare plan, demanded by the majority of Americans, “off the table”. It was engineered this way by the Democrats to accommodate special interests like the Pentagon and its contractors (just two of the cabal members). These special interests do not want to share the federal budget to accommodate the healthcare needs of the American people, the logical outcome if the Congress adopted “single-payer healthcare”.

If Americans are to have the same excellent, comprehensive healthcare enjoyed by the citizens of every other industrialized nation in the world then they are going to have to end the “War on Terrorism” which Howard Dean tells us is being waged to make life easier on women in Afghanistan. Anyone who believes Howard Dean when it comes to the war on Afghanistan or the “public option”, would also be excellent prospects for a sales rep with a special deal on Enron stock or a bridge in Brooklyn.

John Murphy was the independent candidate for House of Representatives in Pennsylvania's 16th district in 2006 and 2008 . He is a founding member of the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition where he represents the independent candidacy of Ralph Nader. He can be reached at: johnamurphy@comcast.net. Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.

13 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. jacksmith said on July 25th, 2009 at 10:49am #

    LEAD, FOLLOW, OR GET OUT OF THE WAY. (Thomas Paine)

    We have the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed world. Conservative estimates are that over 120,000 of you dies each year in America from treatable illness that people in other developed countries don’t die from. Rich, middle class, and poor a like. Insured and uninsured. Men, women, children, and babies. This is what being 37th in quality of healthcare means.

    I know that many of you are angry and frustrated that REPUBLICANS! In congress are dragging their feet and trying to block TRUE healthcare reform. What republicans want is just a taxpayer bailout of the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry, and the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare industry. An insurance bailout is all you really get without a robust government-run public option available on day one.

    These industries have been slaughtering you and your loved ones like cattle for decades for profit. Including members of congress and their families. These REPUBLICANS are FOOLS!

    Republicans and their traitorous allies have been trying to make it look like it’s President Obama’s fault for the delays, and foot dragging. But I think you all know better than that. President Obama inherited one of the worst government catastrophes in American history from these REPUBLICANS! And President Obama has done a brilliant job of turning things around, and working his heart out for all of us.

    But Republicans think you are just a bunch of stupid, idiot, cash cows with short memories. Just like they did under the Bush administration when they helped Bush and Cheney rape America and the rest of the World.

    But you don’t have to put up with that. And this is what you can do. The Republicans below will be up for reelection on November 2, 2010. Just a little over 13 months from now. And many of you will be able to vote early. So pick some names and tell their voters that their representatives (by name) are obstructing TRUE healthcare reform. And are sellouts to the insurance and medical lobbyist.

    Ask them to contact their representatives and tell them that they are going to work to throw them out of office on November 2, 2010, if not before by impeachment, or recall elections. Doing this will give you something more to do to make things better in America. And it will help you feel better too.

    There are many resources on the internet that can help you find people to call and contact. For example, many social networking sites can be searched by state, city, or University. Be inventive and creative. I can think of many ways to do this. But be nice. These are your neighbors. And most will want to help.

    I know there are a few democrats that have been trying to obstruct TRUE healthcare reform too. But the main problem is the Bush Republicans. Removing them is the best thing tactically to do. On the other hand. If you can easily replace a democrat obstructionist with a supportive democrat, DO IT!

    You have been AMAZING!!! my people. Don’t loose heart. You knew it wasn’t going to be easy saving the World. :-)

    God Bless You

    jacksmith — Working Class

    Republican Senators up for re-election in 2010.

    * Richard Shelby of Alabama
    * Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
    * John McCain of Arizona
    * Mel Martinez of Florida
    * Johnny Isakson of Georgia
    * Mike Crapo of Idaho
    * Chuck Grassley of Iowa
    * Sam Brownback of Kansas
    * Jim Bunning of Kentucky
    * David Vitter of Louisiana
    * Kit Bond of Missouri
    * Judd Gregg of New Hampshire
    * Richard Burr of North Carolina
    * George Voinovich of Ohio
    * Tom Coburn of Oklahoma
    * Jim DeMint of South Carolina
    * John Thune of South Dakota
    * Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas
    * Bob Bennett of Utah

  2. Danny Ray said on July 25th, 2009 at 11:43am #

    So why do you not have a revolution and put these guys up againced the wall and shoot them? You can shoot their wives and kids too, remember nits make lice! Then you can seize their stuff and pass it out to all the workers. And then you can have the true workers paradise you have always wanted.

    Round all republicans up and put them in a reeducation camp and gas the bastards that refuse to change?

    You hate them, they obviously hate you, what this country needs is a good civil war. Lets get it on baby.

  3. B99 said on July 25th, 2009 at 3:30pm #

    Danny Ray – I bet you’ll be looking for your medical handout in old age. Promise us you’ll turn it down. And even right now, you can turn down your mortgage subsidy.

  4. Danny Ray said on July 25th, 2009 at 3:52pm #

    What about you B? Ready to start the revolution or do you wish to wait till October for old times sake. Tell me you will be in the front of the crowd that storms the palace gates, or, are you one of those that say violence never works.

  5. Danny Ray said on July 25th, 2009 at 3:56pm #

    My guess is that you are one of those who will fight to the last drop of blood. sombody elses that is!

  6. Obstreperous said on July 25th, 2009 at 4:32pm #

    Mr. Murphy: It is so true that the only way to get a halfway honest reform out of this bunch is to require them to become part of the product, rather than letting them remain in their elisist plan.

    jacksmith: My God, man! The Democrats have a fillibuster-proof Congress! The Republicans are completely out of this discussion. You’ve been sold a bill of goods if you think that this travesty masquerading as a health care plan will help anyone. This is Illinois-style politics, reeingineering a system to direct money to supporters who can funnel it back into campaigns to keep the endless cycle of corruption going. The way the Democrats have been showing themselves to be so greedy and unconcerned about all of us, you’d think that this was all some sinister Republican plan with Obama, Pelosi and Reid as the plants, with the aim of permanently having Americans turn their back on the Democratic party. Good thing I’m not a conspiracy threorist.

    All: Peace, Love & Understanding

  7. John Murphy said on July 25th, 2009 at 6:40pm #

    Obstreperous said;Mr. Murphy: It is so true that the only way to get a halfway honest reform out of this bunch is to require them to become part of the product, rather than letting them remain in their elisist plan.

    I agree Obstreperous. In my article I stated:

    “Any member of Congress, who votes for the “public option” should be, if it passes, forced to drop out of their congressional plan and sign on to the “public option”. How many, one is constrained to wonder, would vote for the legislation under such a circumstance?”

  8. B99 said on July 25th, 2009 at 6:51pm #

    I stand by what I said d-Ray. You’ll be accepting all the goodies you can every chance you get – no thanks to conservatives. As for me, I’m part of a nationwide public health single-payer committee that includes physicians, nurses, epidemiologists, and other professionals (that would include me) – who work to influence Obama’s rather reactionary legislation.

    Just remember to reject your medicare when you come of age.

  9. John Murphy said on July 25th, 2009 at 6:56pm #

    Obstreperous said:
    “jacksmith: My God, man! The Democrats have a fillibuster-proof Congress! The Republicans are completely out of this discussion. You’ve been sold a bill of goods if you think that this travesty masquerading as a health care plan will help anyone.”

    Right on the money again “Obstreperous”. While the Republicans have indeed left the mainstream of American political thought, their totalitarian philosophy remains a constant threat to the Republic. If this bill passes in anything like its present form, it will be an disaster and the Republicans will use that failure to block meaningful reform for another 20 years. But the immediate threat remains the “blue dog” Democrats coupled with a right wing president who not only wants to keep the corporate health care system going, but he’s willing to bail it out with the “Public Option”.

    The dittoheads call it “socialism” because they are clueless – except the leaders who will use the ultimate failure of this plan ($1 Trillion over ten years – most out of tax money) as fodder to their fascist propaganda machine to say: “see, we told you socialism is a failure”.

    The Republicans follow the advice of Joseph Goebbels who said:
    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

    John Murphy
    “Cowardice asks the question ‘is it safe’? Expediency asks the question ‘is it politic’? Vanity asks the question ‘is it popular’? But conscience asks the question ‘is it right’? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but we must take it because our conscience tells us that it is right.”
    -Martin Luther King

  10. Obstreperous said on July 25th, 2009 at 8:21pm #

    re Murphy “…If this bill passes in anything like its present form, it will be an disaster and the Republicans will use that failure to block meaningful reform for another 20 years….”

    If this passes, there will be no need to “block reform” since health care will be in such shambles that it will have to be completely rebuilt and there will be no resources to do bring it back in a form any of us would like to see. Whatever set of bureaucrats who end up in power to do the rebuilding will define its form, which will be to suit their needs and not the patients. If the Democrats end up passing nothing, the question is how is the health care reform ball moved with this political dialectic that we’re forced to deal with as a political reality. The only way I see it is that we need to force the Democrats and Republicans to talk and find the third way. If you want sooner than the 20-year time frame then we have to figure out how to deal with the imperfections and frustrations of our political system and use the mutual antagonism of the parties to work FOR the prople, rather than having the parties use us to fight with each other to serve their purposes. You also have to deal with the realities of how to pay for it all and how to rachet down the expectations of the American public for a quality health care system that is perhaps a good solid Subaru instead of a Ferrrari. Universal health care will not be a reality if we expect an MRI to be run when our child falls off a swing.

    There are serious dangers to consider as we move forward. In the 1990s Hillary’s attempt at health care deform (not a typo) used the tactic of demonizing the pharmaceutical companies and their profits. This was unfortunate for a variety of reasons.
    1) At the time, drug costs were only 5% of the health care expenditure. Drugs could have been made free and that would not have affected health care costs significantly. Additionally, drugs are one of the best way to save on health care costs since they are less expensive then the medical procedures that would be required in their absence. As a result of the political blackmail that occurred at that time, large pharmaceutical companies siezed on the opportunity to destroy competition by agreeing to increasing prices on exising drugs to only a small % each year. Only large companies could do this because they were coming out with new drugs regularly that drove their profits. Middle-sized companies only came out with new drugs periodically so needed to increase their product line prices more just to stay in business and competitive. This resulted in all of the many mergers in the industry and the disappearance of all but the few largest companies. Yes there were a few biotechs, and a long as VCs were willing to gamble on new biotech ventures, the pipelines of the big companies could be filled through in-licensing or acquisition. Now much less VC money goes into biotech and the pipelines for the big companies are starting to fall behind the level of growth needed to maintain these leviathans.
    2) Now there is less competition and far less innovative research going on as evidenced by the many pharmaceutical scientists that have had to find other work. Without this innovation, we will be relying on an ageing arsenal of therapeutic agents…maybe okay for cardiovascular disease, but terrible for infectious disease when bugs can develop resistance.
    3) Over time, pharmaceuticals are now a greater percentage of the total health care cost so there will be increased pressure to arbitratily control prices, but that leaves no one left to spend the dollars needed for drug discovery and development. Government grants and the NIH do not make drugs available to us. It is almost exclusively the domain of private for-profit, but no longer profitable businesses. This is a ticking timebomb that no one is talking about.

    Thus, even playing around with insurance systems or government run health care does not address the issue of a dying vitality in the health care research that can drive improved care and cost savings in the future. To use an energy analogy…we’re arguing about the cost of whale oil for our lamps and not examining electricity.

    This is too important and this Demorat/Republiclown demagoguery may be a way to feel self-righteous, but it is not productive and leads to wasted energy and the status quo.

  11. John Murphy said on July 25th, 2009 at 9:34pm #

    Obstreperous said:
    “If the Democrats end up passing nothing, the question is how is the health care reform ball moved with this political dialectic that we’re forced to deal with as a political reality. The only way I see it is that we need to force the Democrats and Republicans to talk and find the third way. If you want sooner than the 20-year time frame then we have to figure out how to deal with the imperfections and frustrations of our political system and use the mutual antagonism of the parties to work FOR the prople, rather than having the parties use us to fight with each other to serve their purposes. You also have to deal with the realities of how to pay for it all and how to rachet down the expectations of the American public for a quality health care system that is perhaps a good solid Subaru instead of a Ferrrari. ”

    While I did not vote for Obama (Nader was the only possible choice for me), given the historical situation we are facing I considered Obama’s failure to be unthinkable yet the best indications are that his administration will be a miserable failure not only in terms of healthcare but the economy as well as in terms of his foreign and domestic policy. Every voice he hears in Washington — every inclination of our political culture urges incrementalism; urges deliberation if any significant changes to be brought about. The trouble is that we are at one of those rare moments in history when the radical becomes practical, when deliberation and compromise foster disaster. The question is not what CAN be done but what MUST be done. In this case the good is the enemy of the perfect. He must FORCE the historical dialectic and oppose the prevailing paradigm.

    Obama had the opportunity to be a “more perfect” FDR given the challenges he faces but tragically he will become a more perfect Herbert Hoover who looked on with indifference while the country went to pieces. Let’s not forget that Hoover — like Obama — was widely considered the most capable public figure in the country. Like Obama he was almost certainly someone gifted with more intelligence, a better education, and a greater range of life experience than FDR. But through the first three years of the Depression Hoover — the man who comprehended better than anyone else what was happening and what needed to be done failed miserably. Obama must seize the radical moment but it is rather more likely he will move prudently, carefully, and reasonably toward disaster.

    In solidarity,

    John Murphy

    John Murphy

  12. B99 said on July 26th, 2009 at 5:11am #

    Historically, the effort to deny social benefits is about race. First the Dixiecrats, and now the Republicans (same folks), have fought every effort to establish a national health care program. Basically, they did not want to be funneling public monies to black people.

  13. Obstreperous said on July 26th, 2009 at 8:24am #

    re John Murphy “Every voice he hears in Washington — every inclination of our political culture urges incrementalism”

    Incrementalism is indeed how things change when systems and the number of people involved become this large. Societal attitutes evolve on a decades timescale. Revolutions, the corporate downsizing of the political world, effect change, but at great cost to the innocents for the benefit of the newly powerful elite. Here societal attitutes are changed through repression and attrition (the Great Purge, “boat people”, Mariel boat lift). There are ways to apply revolutionary examples in an incrementalist system…apply them on a smaller scale. I am employed by an organization that has a particular world view and a big part of that has to do with assisting the poor throughout the world. I am an employee and not a member of that organization and as such I cannot rise to its upper ranks which is reserved for members. The only requirement as an employee, is that I support their mission and values, which I do. This organization operates as its own collective, yet it is corporate (and capitalist) in structure. It is not one corporation, but is closer to the kiretsu model. Hence, it is self-insured and obtains as many of its goods and services from within its own network. Members within this organization get benefits that I do not, but those “collective” benefits also require active contribution from them in terms of capital and service. My point is that this very effective and compassionate organization was created in the era of the original robber barons and has persisted and grown worldwide, spreading its influence and mindset. It was the product of vision of a group of individuals who chose to embody their views of healthy sustainable living and service to others in the form of a series of businesses that carry out their mission. So rather than impotently talking about change, they made it happen and organized in a way to be self-sustaining. Have they completely changed society overall to embrace their world view. No. They do not exercise control, they convince by example and the fact is that most people cannot get beyond self-interest even when they are confronted with a Ghandi. I am a believer in this model of living as an example. I believe than when you are dealing with the self-interested, that the best approach is to nudge those individuals to a state of “enlightened” self-interest rather than futilely berating their position. I am not a believer in coercive models. Self-interest in its truest sense embraces other centeredness, because it leads to better individual results in the long run.

    What does this mean? It means that efforts and resources are probably wasted if they are spent “preaching to the chior” and reveling in supposed superiority our our personal views. Walk the walk. If you believe in Capitalisim, be the best damn capitalist there is and show what good you can do with it. There are many things you can criticise Bill Gates for, but I personally respect him for dedicating the bulk of his fortune to a number of previously underserved problems (malaria, etc.). If you want to be an anarcho-syndicalist then find a way to enact that system at least locally, at first, and show that it actually does more good than harm…then do some REAL good with it. No matter what you believe…make it happen, or move to where it’s happening and be part of it. That’s what my grandfather did 80 years ago when he came to America. I have two young children and will work for them to be other-centered, have an international world view and a love of Liberty. I fear that America may no longer be a haven for Liberty if we keep going down this fascist road of increased governmental control over our lives and rule of the mob vs rule of law. There may come a time that I or my children may have to seek a country more supportive of people and their aspirations. There’s no real reason to live in an oppressive society, since residing there only makes you a operating cog serving its vile ends. I have a colleague moving back to his native Thailand, since things have so quickly deteriorated here in America. This is a consequence of radicalism. Those not already convinced either leave or refuse to participate. That plays a large part in the failure of revolutionary changes. Hence, I hold for incrementalism…it is the most compassionate for the most vulnerable who often do not have many options open to them. But incrementalism is not inaction. Inaction is inexcusable. Don’t surround yourself exclusively with the like-minded. Engage those who disagree with you. You will never convince them with words…it is acts that count.

    Oh well, on with the day. Have a peaceful Sunday.