I’ve been sitting on the sidelines of this health care debate, doing something I rarely do—not talk. Listening has become my tool in this battle. Whether its Karl Rove’s ranting in today’s WSJ or Tom Daschle’s praise of Sen. Kennedy (and being the first to leverage Kennedy’s passing to plea with Congress to act). I’ve listened to the screaming right-wingers who speak strictly out of hate and contradiction; and to those who lined up in Los Angeles for two days just to access free mobile health care centers that are usually deployed in 3rd world nations. I’ve listened to my colleagues who tout “just leave me out of it, I like my doctor,” and I’ve watched my mother pay a ridiculous premium mixed with a deductible that will never be met in a single year. I’ve also listened to my provider tell me “your coverage can not be confirmed or guaranteed.” Health insurance coverage should not be as complicated as understanding a mortgage-backed security.
Now I’ve seen the grassroots movement on Facebook that says, “No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick.” And now it’s time to speak (albeit anonymously). Given my detailed knowledge of the political and legislative process I’m finally ready to respond. Besides, what’s the good of watching the sausage being made if you can’t eat the product!
First, my solution: I like the co-op option. What is the co-op option you ask: look it up! Not-for-profit cooperatives are “member-owned” insurance plans that compete with for-profit plans such as Blue Shield/Cross, Anthem, and MetLife. Co-ops are committed to people helping people, something slightly different than an insurance company! At a co-op you belong to something; you get a say by voting for a board of directors consisting of your peers, elected by you, and accountable to each other. Members in turn receive benefits and if a profit is made, it’s returned to you in the form of better services.
Not-for-profit co-ops have a proven track record of putting people before profits.
If you need an example, look at your local credit union (please tell me you know about these)—which is a bank with a co-op structure—and guess what? Because they’re beholden to their members, they didn’t make the predatory loans that got us into this fiscal crisis. They’ve never had to take tax payer dollars to stay afloat. Again, people helping people.
My understanding as it applies to health care is largely modeled after health care co-ops in Washington, Oregon, and Vermont. In short, members of the co-op (open to anyone) pay a premium for full medical care. The coverage plans are based on decisions by the board of directors—and “ta-da” . . . you have health coverage. I believe it really is just that simple.
Now to the politics:
The President and Congress have outlined several goals for health insurance reform. However, if the ultimate goal is to drive down costs and provide affordable insurance for all, creating a structure for not-for-profit co-ops seems a logical choice—especially if Republicans will only vote for a revenue neutral system (however, rank-and-file and right-wing Republicans will oppose any attempts on health care simply out of politics). Additionally, I do agree that the red tape created by both a government-run plan and the current bureaucracy of providers will only lead us back to square one. If the government is committed to driving down costs and proactive preventative health care solutions, co-ops can and do achieve these tasks. As for insurance regulation—co-ops can afford to pay fees to ensure that insurance is properly regulated, i.e., that the people who need to be covered are covered.
Legislatively: The Dems in the House can pass anything—with the help of the “blue dogs.” Blue dogs are social moderates that think the government should be out of your life (and that includes the 3rd rail of politics . . .hint: rhymes with “smishmortion”) that are fiscal conservatives. Most of the Blue Dogs support a co-op network—led by Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND). Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills, CA) and Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem, NY) are the two key committee chairman (Energy and Commerce/Ways and Means—respectively) both whom align with the liberal Democrats. This means the Blue Dogs will have even more power—and will likely bring a reality check on the cost of health care as it applies to budget deficit (which is another topic for another day).
The Senate will be an even greater challenge. First off, who will assume the helm of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee following the passing of Ted Kennedy? Will it be Chris Dodd, the current Banking Committee Chairman (who has been leading the fight in Kennedy’s absence) or is another Senator willing to jump into battle? The so-called “gang of 6” bipartisan Senators have been “hashing” out a compromise, but have little ground to stand on right now. Mix in the demands of President Obama and the billions of dollars being spent on mis-education (not to mention the Fox News propaganda)…well it’s a cluster!
In the end, it will happen….
Why do I say that?
It goes back to Inglewood, Calif., a few weeks ago, and the people who gathered for two days to access free health care. Republicans playing politics, and Democrats bent on spending us out of existence need to keep these citizens on the forefront of their minds when they return next week. The bottom line is doing nothing is not an option, and playing politics with people’s lives is un-American.
The “audacity of hope” is all that remains in this debate and the time to act is now.
Mr. Silence Dogood is the nom de plume of a political insider that, for obvious reasons, chooses to remain anonymous.