Sunday, June 14, 2009

Joe being Joe: Lieberman says no to "public option" on health-care reform

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Joe Lieberman, non-Democrat, is always just in it for himself, isn't he? He's with McCain and the Republicans before the '08 election, campaigning vigorously against Obama, then he's with Obama, if not so much with the Democrats, whom he formally rejected following his loss to Lamont (becoming an "independent"), when Obama wins and the Republicans are reduced to an extremist minority with little hope of reaquiring power anytime soon. Indeed, he only crawled back to the Democrats after the election, and kissed up to Obama with effusive praise, so effusive as to suggest phoniness, pandering to the president's immense popularity, in order to secure himself a leadership position in the Senate.

And here he is again, Joe being Joe, this time on health-care reform, coming out, as expected, against the so-called "public option":

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said this weekend that he opposes a public option plan for consumers in a healthcare reform plan to emerge from the Senate.

"I don't favor a public option," Lieberman told Bloomberg News in an interview broadcast this weekend. And I don't favor a public option because I think there's plenty of competition in the private insurance market."

Now, the "public option" is what we in the civilized world have. Even if there is private health care (as, say, in the U.K., where private insurance can be purchased and where there are private medical facilities), the foundation of progressive universal health care is a state-run system -- one that, contrary to the misinformation and propaganda campaign of the right, allows for a substantial amount of choice. (As in Canada, for example: I chose my family doctor. I was not assigned to one. As a resident of Ontario, I have what is called OHIP, the univeral provincial plan. However, I have additional coverage through work, and one can buy additional coverage through private insurers.)

Lieberman and other opponents of genuine reform suggest that public health care is anti-market and anti-choice, a form of state-run tyranny, and that adopting any sort of "public option" would be like adopting, say, the Soviet model. No matter that universal public health care works extremely well here in Canada, as well as in every other advanced liberal democracy, from Norway to New Zealand. And I agree, the American system works well -- if you have money, if you have the access that comes from privilege. (I used to live in the U.S., and was privileged to have access to excellent health care. So I know.) But the millions of uninsured, and inadequately insured, not to mention the millions and millions who have to haggle with their HMOs and who have no choice but to accept what those HMOs tell them to do, who have no choice but HMO-approved care, need more than more of the same, more than more of the market, more than having to go to the market in hopes of finding the coverage and treatment they need. Rather, what they need is precisely the sort of public system we have in Canada, a system that guarantees coverage, and that guarantees care, for everyone regardless of money or privilege.

But back to Lieberman. As Steve Benen puts it: "First, reforming American healthcare without a public option is to do reform the wrong way. Second, Lieberman is just wrong about there being 'plenty of competition in the private insurance market.' Third, these comments yet another reminder that Lieberman is not with Democrats on 'everything but foreign policy.'"

And then there was this doozy from Lieberman: "Let's get something done instead of having a debate." What the hell does that mean? (It's easily one of the stupidest lines of the year so far.) As Steve asks, "[w]hat's wrong with having a debate and getting something done?" Nothing. Unless you're Joe Lieberman, who doesn't really want to get anything done in terms of genuine reform and who therefore doesn't want to have a meaningful debate about anything.

Yes, it's more of the same from Joe Lieberman, non-Democrat, wrong on health care and an obstacle to reform. What else is new?

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