Any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, costs, and track records of a variety of plans—including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest—and choose what’s best for your family.
—President Barack Obama in his weekly address, July 18, 2009
There continues to be raging debate in Washington, D.C., in the media, and in communities across the country about how to reform healthcare. There are so many elements of the healthcare legislation now pending in Congress and just as many arguments, facts, fiction, and outright misrepresentations for each of those elements. It’s enough to make any American weary of the seemingly endless political games, media histrionics, and mind-boggling complexity of it all. It is no wonder that we’ve continued to procrastinate as a nation on enacting healthcare reform, even as we watch the costs of healthcare skyrocket, devouring more and more of our wages and profits, while millions of Americans have no coverage at all.
However, we must resist the temptation to simply withdraw from the discussion, put our heads in the sand, and wait for it all to blow over. Simply put, the final legislation that emerges from our national healthcare reform debate will impact the fiscal health and economic competitiveness of our nation, and the actual health and quality of life of Americans for generations to come. This debate is about what kind of inheritance we leave our children’s children, and beyond. That’s why, for the second time in four months, I am devoting my monthly column to the importance of reform. We must take the time and make the effort to clearly understand every aspect of the pending legislation.
For example, the need for a public option, as an alternative to private insurance, is obvious if we are to expand access to healthcare while controlling costs, as President Obama correctly stated during his weekly address on July 18. Yet during much of the summer, this critical element of health reform became the subject of misrepresentations ranging from legitimate concerns about costs to ridiculous references to fictional “death panels.”
Don’t go by politicians, news media, and health reform ads alone. Take the time to review the legislation for yourself (go to www.opencongress.org) and make the effort to follow experts on all sides of the issue, focusing on those providing thoughtful information and analysis, not scare tactics and political attacks. After all, you and your family’s health—and even your life—are at stake in this