Feature

Health care’s ‘public option’

What would a government-run alternative to private health insurance mean for you?

President Obama says he’d rather have 70 Senate votes approving a good health-care reform bill, said David Broder in The Washington Post, than have 52 senators push through a perfect one. His bipartisan aspirations will face their biggest test over a provision, included in Sen. Ted Kennedy’s legislation, for a government-sponsored alternative to private health plans. Obama supports this “public option,” but Republicans call it a “nonstarter.”

Why would the GOP support pushing the U.S. toward becoming a “European-style welfare state”? said Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal. To stop this “bait-and-switch” fiasco, Republicans need to make five points: The “public option” is unnecessary, would restrict care by fixing prices, is “far too expensive,” puts Uncle Sam between doctors and patients, and would “crater” the private insurance market, forcing us into a “single-payer, government-run health-care system.”

Why is that such a “scary” thought? said Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. Canada has such a system, and do you know what Canadians pay for health care? About $49 a month—no strings, no co-payments. Sure, there is some wait for services, and the hospital food is lousy. But Canada pays half as much per patient on care that has as good or better outcomes than in the U.S. No wonder some "scaremongers” making fortunes in the American system want you terrified. Don’t be.

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