Public Option, Medicare, What’s the Difference?

Warning: This is one of those “policy” posts, so if you’re looking for pithy freelance medical writing verbiage, come back tomorrow.

If you’re still with me, you know that the Senate begins debate today on the healthcare insurance reform bill (apparently we’re no longer calling it “healthcare reform” because there’s still so far to go in terms of reforming the overweight, out-of-control, drunken healthcare system we’ve created over the past 50 years).

One of the big sticking points to getting a bill passed in the Senate, pundits say, will be the so-called “public option.” This component provides a bare bones, government-sponsored health plan, subsidized as needed based on income, to compete with private health insurance plans. The plan would be delivered by private insurers paid by the federal government. In the Senate plan, states would be able to opt out of it if they wanted. Nonpartisan estimates from the Congressional Budget Office show that just 4 to 6 million Americans would go for it. Oh, and it would save billions over 10 years. Yet based on the reaction from most Republicans and some Democrats, you’d think it was a proposal to cut off every American’s right arm!

The main objection? We don’t want no stinking government involved in our healthcare insurance.

Ok then. Would every American aged 65 and older who opposes the public option component (and that would be you, Senator) open your wallets, pull out your Medicare cards, grab a pair of scissors and cut them into tiny little pieces. Obviously, you don’t need them since you are so opposed to government-sponsored health insurance.

Or maybe you didn’t know that Medicare is run by, um, the federal government. Apparently not, since four out of 10 Americans in a recent poll said they wanted “government to stay out of Medicare.”


The irony of all this is that Americans love their Medicare. In another poll conducted last February, a majority of Americans said they think Medicare should be expanded to include all Americans (gasp! Wouldn’t that be . . . single-payer health care?). And a Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll conducted in April 2009 showed that 77% of Americans feel that Medicare is “very important” for the country as a whole.

People. . . can we please make up our minds?

Do we or do we not want the federal government involved in our healthcare? As I tell my kids all the time, you can’t have it both ways. Choose!

7 Responses to “Public Option, Medicare, What’s the Difference?”

  1. katherine

    Great post, Deb. As for the “public option”, I currently live in Canada, and you might want to check out my experience there with “socialized medicine”:

  2. Deb

    Medicaid is run by the states; so it wouldn't make sense to expand that program; any public option will likely build off the infrastructure already in place for Medicare; we would have to create a new program because of the legal/legislative regulations around Medicare.

  3. Lisa P

    WEll, then, do we really need a whole new “public option” or just adjust the medicaid program to include those who are falling through the cracks? Just a thought — just seems so unweildy to try to come up with a whole new program . . .

  4. Alisa Bowman

    Or, like me, we have health insurance but it sucks, so we are willing to buy into whatever the government offers because it HAS TO BE better than the alternative. This is why insurance companies don't want the government option–because they know their policies suck and the competition from the government plan will force them to offer insurance that actually covers something for once.

  5. Deb

    Medicaid is based on income and the majority of people without health insurance do not qualify for Medicaid and are too young for Medicare (65); Most people without health insurance DO work; their employer either doesn't offer insurance or they can't afford the premiums.

  6. Lisa P

    Okay, but wait. If the government already has a plan (Medicare) to help the elderly who no longer work and also had a plan to help the poor (Medicaid) to help those who are too young or two sick to work, why do we need another plan? Everyone else should be able to access healthcare insurance . . .?

  7. Alisa Bowman

    Amen, sister. But you already knew I was in the choir.


Leave a Reply