| You may know that health care reform is in a fair bit of trouble. The defenders of the status quo in Washington, often a bipartisan lot, want to deny consumers choice, force them into a market monopolized by private insurance companies who have shown through their actions over the past several decades that they are concerned about profit and not people, and scream that we cannot afford giving all our citizens high-quality and affordable health care, while spending trillions on banks and military weapons. It's the tragedy of the bipartisan elite consensus that currently rules the roost, and not even the greatest economic crisis since the Depression has so far been able to dislodge it.
The bipartisan elite consensus that governs this country is quite simple. First, deficits and high taxes are always the basic cause of economic stress or the biggest threat facing a recovery, no matter the circumstances. (The corollary is that cutting taxes and spending are the ultimate answer to every economic challenge.) Taxes on the wealthy (excuse me "the most productive") must be kept as low as possible, the military cannot be subject to any budgetary constraint and the national security state cannot be held accountable, business and industry must always be given top priority and all other government expenditures are legislative bargaining chips regardless of their impact on the lives of average Americans. Nobody questions that consensus or even suggests that some other set of priorities might be useful from time to time.
This consensus flies in the face of known public preferences, both in this state and around the country, for a full overhaul of the broken health care system that turns lives into data points on a balance sheet.
The health policy survey of 1,207 registered voters showed that 88 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of nonpartisans and 55 percent of Republicans agree that the health care system either needs significant restructuring or should be completely rebuilt.
"There is bipartisan agreement that the health system needs some fundamental changes, and there is greater impatience that this should be done now," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the California Field Poll.
The poll, funded through a grant by the California Wellness Council, comes as President Barack Obama is calling for overhauling the health care system.
His insistence on a government program to compete with private insurers is infuriating some conservatives, who fear such a plan would drive insurance companies out of business. It is also drawing scorn from some liberals who want a single-payer, government-run program.
But 85 percent of respondents to the Field Poll said they support the general concept of allowing people a choice between privately run and government-run health plans.
"They're not necessarily endorsing the public plan or saying that they would choose it," DiCamillo said. "They just like having alternatives. The introduction of a public plan is supported because it would provide greater choices."
You cannot get Americans to agree with 85% consensus on whether the sky is blue. But this they understand: the system is broken, the pharmaceuticals and the insurers and the HMOs cannot be trusted, and choice to force them - through could old market economics - to compete on price and quality is deeply desirable. Later in the poll, Field finds differences on how to pay for reform, an outgrowth of the Two Santa Claus Theory. But giving people a policy they can support will certainly allow them to swallow the mechanisms for paying for it.
So at this point we need to ask our legislators if they support what 85% of Californians support - a robust public option to compete with private insurance in the health care system. Frankly this is the very least we should have, but without it, we cannot call anything coming from Washington real reform. Open Left and DFA have created a whip tool. Simply put, we need to email our Senators - and the Senate is where health care will be won or lost - to answer four specific questions about whether or not they support the public option:
Write a short note in your own words on why you support a public healthcare option:
A public healthcare option is crucial to controlling costs, the heart of the healthcare crisis.
A public healthcare option will keep private insurance honest.
Then ask your Senators these four questions:
Do you support a public healthcare option as part of reform?
Do you support a public healthcare option that is ready on day one?
Do you support a public healthcare option that is national, available everywhere, and accountable to our government?
Do you support a public healthcare option that has the clout to establish rates with providers and big drug companies?
Conclude by reminding your Senators that you are a constituent, and you expect answers to these questions in writing, via email.
Right now health care reform is reeling. We need this whip count to know where everyone stands and put pressure on our lawmakers to adopt the position of 85% of the public. Please take action today. You can see where Sens. Boxer and Feinstein stand here. This is the most important domestic policy of this generation, and we cannot wait another year to get it right.