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The Reform We Are Still Waiting For

El Diario La Prensa, Staff Posted: Dec 12, 2009

Democrats are caught between a rock and a hard place. In the Senate, they are trying to land 60 votes to pass a health care reform bill. And this seems like speed skating towards anything but fundamental reform.

The proposal for a public health insurance option that other industrialized nations have long had some form of has been gradually whittled away. Thank conservative Democrats, Republicans and an Independent.

What Americans are instead being offered is an expansion of Medicare, meaning that anyone 55 or older would be able to access the program. Other Americans would be able to buy into a plan similar to what federal employees use. The federal government would choose a private insurer for this. (Among the senators crucial for moving a bill forward are Republican Olympia Snowe, who is against expanding Medicare, and Independent Joe Lieberman, who is against a public option even as a fall back.)

But that private insurers have been silent so far says a lot, namely that the critical goal of checking an industry that has not checked its high costs and left so many Americans to fend for themselvesto the point that tens of thousands of people die each year because they dont have insurancehas vanished from the radar.

One of the clear calls of health reform advocates is for competition that would spur cost containment and rein in what have already been soaring prices for health insurance. It is not clear how this latest emerging bill would do that. It is also not clear whether a plan based on the federal model and designed by a private insurer would even be accessible to working and middle class families.

Americans do not want a mannequin of a public option in a window of a private insurer. Yet it sounds as if the only thing being contained is the publics interests. This is bad news not only for families, but also for politicians who believe they can defend this bill as reform come election season.

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