Saturday, January 26, 2008

John Edwards on health care: consumers should have a choice

by Randy Bayne

Because John Edwards' health care plan is not an outright single-payer plan many people mistakingly believe he does not favor such a plan. Not true. What he has said all along is that it should be up to the public, not politicians, to decided the kind of health care system they want.

The essence of Edwards' plan is to allow health care consumers to make the choice between traditional private insurance and government plans.
Mr. Edwards, of North Carolina, emphasized in a 40-minute interview on health policy that the choice would be made not in Washington, but by consumers in an open marketplace where private insurance competes with government plans. [NYTimes, 01/25/2008]
The Edwards plan will allow consumers the choice between traditional private insurance and a government plan modeled on Medicare (single-payer). It would be the consumers making the choice, and if they chose to go for the single-payer plan, well, that's just fine with Edwards.

This is in keeping with a basic theme of the John Edwards for President campaign. Empowering people to make choices and giving them the tools and the help they need to be responsible citizens.

Private insurance is in business for one thing. To make money. That is one of the reasons they funnel about 30% of premiums away for actual health care and into healthy profits for executives. Medicare, on the other hand, spends about 3% on overhead. The rest is put into taking care of health needs.
If the government is able to undercut private insurers on price — by forgoing profit, reducing overhead, and maximizing economies of scale — it theoretically could put the private system out of business and become the de facto insurer for the nation.
Edwards decided on his plan because he believes that consumers should have the choice. They will find the better system and gravitate to it. He considered a single-payer plan in the beginning;
"I thought that there was a legitimate and strong argument for it," he said. "But I also believed that there are an awful lot of Americans who like the health care they have and are nervous about entirely government-controlled health care."
One doesn't have to go further than the debate over health care here in California to know how true that is. As people take sides for and against the Schwarzenegger/Nuñez plan, a single-payer plan is waiting in the wings. State Senator Sheila Kuehl's SB 840 has been labeled a "government-controlled health care," but sometimes we need government to control systems that have lost control or have shown they can no longer be trusted to be self controlled.

Perhaps a plan similar to the Edwards plan is right for California. Empower consumers to make their own choice. If they move toward single-payer great. If they don't that's okay too. But at least they get to make the choice, not some politician in Sacramento or Washington taking money from the insurance industry. Let consumers make the choice.

Join me in supporting John Edwards for President

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