Public Option: Worth the Fight

Published on political affairs pa, by Phil E. Benjamin, November 02, 2009.

This past week the House released its version of the national health care legislation. It is no longer the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200); it’s now the Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3962). There are many changes, some of them are responses to the peoples’ health movement. Now we await the Senate version to be finalized. When those bills are passed in each house, they will go to a joint conference committee to be merged together. The legislation that comes out of that conference will no doubt be the result of additional changes. That is where the power of the peoples’ health movement will be felt.

No time to give up:

The health insurance, drug makers and medical device companies distortion of the health care legislative debate in Congress has reached its crucial point. After extending their hands in friendship to the Democratic Party leadership, they quickly reverted back to their deceitful, lying ways.   

What was once seen as a positive effort to bring health care services to everyone in our country at minimum out of pocket costs has been reduced to a scrambling for the crumbs that are left to fight over. It has driven many activists to the sidelines of the struggle. Too many have given up any hope for a decent national health program. Skepticism and cynicism is clouding the goal for which we must continue to struggle. The first goal of the monopolies effort is to discourage and defeat those in its opposition.

This isn’t first time that the peoples’ movement has had to piece together the crumbs to make a nice cupcake that makes sense and benefits all of us. Keeping our own goals ahead of us is crucial to the immediate struggle. It will also steel us for the upcoming struggles in the health and jobs arena as well as for our anti-war, anti-nuclear, anti-climate change and working class agenda. The rallying cry of past struggles remains true today, “dare to struggle; dare to win.”

Differing public options: … //

… Procedural maneuvering:

To be sure, the leaders of the Senate and to a less extent the House must overcome many procedural issues to get a bill that will be acceptable to the peoples’ health movement. The mass media is filled with filibuster and anti-filibuster noise, plus other confusing rhetoric. All of these voting issues will fade into the back if the movement is large enough and loud enough. That is the job ahead.

Immigrant’s and women’s rights issues:

Two major peoples’ rights issues remain before the Congress and White House. The first one is making sure that everyone residing in the country will receive his or her full health rights. This means that the health bill must not be limited to legal citizens or legal immigrants.

Labor unions, religious organization and civil rights groups should continue to sound the alarm for the rights of every man, woman and child to health services. Immigrants, regardless of their status, work hard at jobs where they pay the same taxes we all pay. That’s right. They pay taxes that fund Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and sundry other programs. But, they are prohibited from accessing the same benefits.

Public health professionals must raise a similar cry. They should raise the practical public health danger of infections and diseases when a significant portion of the population is refused basic public health vaccines, immunizations and primary health are services. The H1N1 threat is an obvious reason for total inclusion. A fully inclusive public health insurance program would do better than any ad hoc national vaccine program.

Health reform should also protect a woman’s right to all reproductive services. All groups, not just women must fight for full health services relating to reproductive services. The House version only allows for these rights in the case of rape, incest and a direct threat to a woman’s life. This is barbaric thinking. These decisions belong to the physician and woman; third parties should not be involved at all.

Reproductive planning should all be considered in the same package. For example, vasectomies. Planned Parenthood reports: “Private health insurance policies may pay some or most of the cost. In nearly all states, Medicaid covers vasectomy.” Republicans want reproductive issues excluded from coverage under any new public program or from receiving federal subsidies. The question is why are women discriminated against? (full text).

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