http://paloaltoonline.com/blogs/p/print/2009/09/08/more-on-health-care--public-options-co-ops-other


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By Paul Losch

More on Health Care: Public Options Co-Ops, Other

Uploaded: Sep 8, 2009

I will admit that I have little or no expertise around health care policy. I have tried to stay engaged and informed these past few months.

And my small company that I run got its monthly health care bill today, and the charges, DURING THE CONTRACT YEAR!, were up about 50 bucks per employee with no explanation. So, I follow this at both a policy and personal level right now.

The big show stopper in terms of how to solve the health care challenges the country faces is around the so-called "Public Option." The general notion is that the United States government offers an alternative to private insurance, with various benefits to those who use this option.

Another idea that has been getting teed up is the "co-operative" program. This would not be government administered, but would serve to "pool" people who fall between the cracks of the almost entirely private health care system and in some form or fashion have access to health care that they do not have at present.

I have a limited understanding of how these two compare and contrast in the minds of DC policy makers right now, and how well either option meets certain key objectvies, such as universal coverage, no pre-existing condition denials, reducing overall costs of health care.

That all said, I do have a few thoughts about my own experience with the US government option and co-ops.

My dad was a US Navy veteran, and he received extraordinary health care from the Veterans Administration health care system up the street here on Foothills. My understanding from general public information is that had he received comparable care outside the VA system, it would have been much more costly, even if he had it covered from other insurance and Medicare that he had. How can we replicate that for those of us who did not serve our country in the military?

Medicare covers millions of people over 62 or 65, although some of the town meeting speakers in August apparently did not know that Medicare was a government program. From a care standpoint, it gets good marks. No death panels, no compromises on services provided. But, it is going broke. I actually am surprised this has not come up more in the disucssion around a "public option" alternative. A big concern I and I believe others should have is how can we be assured that a "public option" won't get caught in same snare that Medicare is in? Perhaps some experts and policy makers have offered some useful information around that question, and if any of you know of it, please add to this posting.

As for co-operatives, my experience with them have been with 2 long standing insurance companies--USAA and State Farm. Both have been excellent. Neither firm is involved in health care, which is a different business, but there are such things as best practices that can migrate from related industries. How much discussion is going on in DC around this model? Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine, member of "Gang of Six," is promoting this model. Is she on to something?

I write this about 24 hours before our President speaks to a joint session of Congress. Perhaps more will be known after his address.

One thing for sure, we must get something done. The status quo may work for many, but not for all. I feel screwed as a small business owner in trying to provide coverage to the people that work for me as my rates go up willy nilly with no clear explanation.

This is a time when we can take the "first do no harm" approach in protecting those who have satisfactory coverage, but not at the expense of those who are truly feeling the harm.

I just wish the rhetoric were helping us understand that we all are in this together, instead of how it has come across, which is more of a zero sum game. I blame the pros in both parties in DC, and I fault our President for allowing Capitol Hill to own this issue. Let's hope that changes tomorrow night, whatever options become the game plan for the Administration.

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