Thursday, September 10, 2009

Progressive Co-Chair Rep. Raul Grijalva: Public Option Is Essential

In the midst of President Obama's excellent speech on healthcare reform, there was one passage that gave cause for concern: his comments on the public option. From the speech:

Now, it is -- it's worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn't be exaggerated -- by the left or the right or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and shouldn't be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage available for those without it. (Applause.) The public option -- the public option is only a means to that end -- and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal.

Is the public option just a means to an end, or an end in itself? I believe that it is the latter. The struggle for healthcare reform is not just about ending the most abusive practices of the healthcare insurance industry: the denial of coverage, the refusal to renew it, and the refusal to accept "pre-existing conditions." There's also the skyrocketing cost of health insurance, made worse by the overhead, CEO salaries and advertising that all of us pay for. The private insurance giants can do as they please, and they have a financial incentive to deny coverage. The public option is the only entity that can keep them honest by forcing them to enact reasonable rates and provide consistent coverage.

Speaking on "Democracy Now," Progressive Co-Chair Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) (shown above) insisted that the public option must be a part of healthcare reform:

...without any significant public component, it is not going to be the reform that the President wants, and it’s not going to be—it’s not going to satisfy the expectations of the base of voters that are right now feeling somewhat disheartened that we’re not moving more aggressively to get his public plan done and done right.

...You could expand Medicare and enroll more people and lower the age requirement, open the eligibility. You can call it whatever you want. But the basic role that government has in holding private industry, private insurance accountable, cost containment and a publicly run choice for the American people has to be part of the plan and a good idea.

...We have been advocating for this. We have been working with people on this, and we’re going to fight it down to the very last day. It’s got to be part of it. If it’s not, we’re just showering money upon money upon the same system and the same industry that got us into the mess we’re in right now.

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