Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Public Option

By Capt. Fogg

A young man asked President Obama yesterday if a public health care option was unfair to businesses that needed a profit to survive. In doing so he's begged a host of other questions amongst which are: is it fair to ask the public to insure the profits of a private business to their own detriment? If public safety is usually best served by a public agency, as most would agree, then why not public health?

I have to ask myself why the US has long since moved away from private fire departments without having ruined the private property insurers. I have to wonder why that move isn't seen as "Socialism" any more and why it's proved to be far more efficient and far less costly if private agencies are, according to conservative credo, more efficient.

An overview of the history of firefighting in America shows that private, independent firefighting companies regularly engaged in rationing of services, refusal of services and prices for coverage that bordered on extortion. Arguments over price allowed buildings to burn and set neighborhoods on fire and private, unregulated firefighters sometimes were accused of looting and arson.

It's beyond dispute that a corporation's prime motivator is maximum profit and that rationing of services and selectivity or denial of coverage to reduce risk serve that motivation to the detriment of public safety, at least in the case of fire prevention. I think it applies to public health as well. I think experience has shown that we are far better off and far safer with municipal fire departments than with privately owned, for-profit companies. I think experience will show that public hospitals do not drive private hospitals out of business and that the "Public Option" for health insurance will not do the same for private insurers.

To me, the question that is obscured by all the shouting of credos and the burning of straw men and the lies about death panels, is whether public health and public safety are better served by a public agency rather than multiple private agencies, which by definition and nature are motivated to ration services and keep prices as high as possible.

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