On Sunday’s WABC UpClose show focusing on health care reform, The Community Service Society’s Elisabeth Benjamin clarified some details of the Obama Administration’s health care proposal, which includes a public plan option. CSS is a founding member of the HCFANY coalition.
The show began with host Diana Williams’ interview via satellite with public option advocate Congressman Charles Rangel, Chairman of the House Ways and Means who said “We need to have an option for people to get insurance that is not through their jobs.” Rangel also indicated that a public plan is key to the House’s proposed reform bill and that “no bill will get through the House without it.”
A the discussion that followed, Paul Howard of the conservative Manhattan Institute argued that competition created by a publicly funded option would threaten private insurers, instead calling for health care tax credits along the lines of what John McCain proposed during the election ($2,000 for an individual, $5,000 for a family). He also spoke of permitting the purchase of health insurance plans across state lines as a solution to high costs.
In response to Howard’s claims, Elisabeth Benjamin asked “Why do we not want the government to compete with the public sector in health care when it does so in other areas?” Elisabeth also countered Mr. Howard on tax credits, stating that for high-cost states like New York, where purchasing insurance on the open market costs $12,000 for an individual and 24,000 for a family, tax credits just won’t cut it.
The debate illustrates that there is still a lot of road to clear and educating to do if real health reform is to be enacted in 2009. It is promising nonetheless to see that key-lawmakers, such as Congressman Rangel coming out strongly and repeatedly in support of a public plan.