Union Stance On Public Option Is Self-Defeating

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by JimofPennsylvan, Oct 22, 2009.

  1. JimofPennsylvan

    JimofPennsylvan VIP Member

    Jun 6, 2007
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    The leadership of America’s Labor Unions’ stance on the public option (a government sponsored health insurance program) is exactly the opposite of what it should be if the leadership really cared about their membership and the American worker. Union leadership has come out for the public option and spent a lot of money pushing for its passage which is extreme foolishness because long-term the public option will result in America having a government run single-payer health system and without a doubt it will be just like the other single-payer systems in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom – people often wait a long time to see a specialist and get needed testing and needed surgeries and sometimes don’t receive the latest testing and treatments for their illnesses when in a good health system they would. In the last twenty-five years Union leadership has fought so hard to get and/or maintain excellent health care benefits for their membership and their families and now with their support of the public option they are throwing all this good work away it is total foolishness.

    The public option will lead to a government run single-payer system because it will over the long-term largely drive private insurance companies out of the individual health insurance market and it will largely cause America’s employers which provide health insurance for over sixty percent of adult Americans to drop employer sponsored health insurance programs resulting in these affected America’s getting health insurance with the government sponsored health insurance program. Then once most Americans are in the government sponsored health insurance program insurance premiums in this government program will rise significantly higher than overall inflation because health care costs historically rise at such levels and there won’t be the private insurance companies and employer sponsored health insurance programs in the system for the government to pass on the burden for the true costs incurred by health care providers. And because politicians will likely bow to public pressure to not raise health insurance premiums in the government sponsored health insurance system too high these politicians will suppress the “mandated by law” prices the government sponsored health insurance program pays health care providers compared to what allowing a fair profit would look like thus resulting in hospitals not opening or not expanding or even curtailing or shutting down services resulting in a lower quality of health care for the American people.

    To those pro-public option Americans who say that people that make the above described allegations are just trying to generate fear to stop the public option one only need to look at the details of what is going on with good faith and common sense to see this is not the case. The proponents of the public option would like from the start that is with the current reform legislation write into law that the government sponsored health insurance program does not have to negotiate prices with health care provides like other insurance issuers but rather can use Medicare prices or very close to Medicare prices. Even if these politicians and their allies don’t succeed in this price control element of the government sponsored program with the initial legislation they are going to keep pursuing it aggressively because if one listens to their philosophy on fixing the health care system as stated by them in their public statements the major premise of their solution on how to lower health insurance premiums for Americans is get a government sponsored plan and mandate by law this plan can pay health care providers Medicare or close to Medicare rates. Not only will the country if it sees enacted a public option have to deal with these politicians and their allies but lets face it America is facing a $9 trillion dollar deficit over ten years, will have unavoidable obligations in Pakistan and Afghanistan that will costs hundreds of billions of dollars over ten years, has entitlement programs which are broken, a transportation infrastructure funding system which is broken and facing many unavoidable inordinately high social spending expenses for the indefinite future, the bottom line is that for all practical and intensive purposes if there is a government sponsored health insurance program the Congress will eventually mandate some form of Medicare like pricing for this program the government will be able to save billions if not tens of billions of dollars per year in reduced health insurance subsidies for middle class families by doing so, Congress will not be able to avoid the temptation.

    The pro-public option advocates don’t like to acknowledge this but nevertheless the following is true. If the government sponsored health insurance program gets the legislative benefit that it can pay health care providers Medicare like rates, those health care providers will have to cover their costs and make their profit from their other “non-government sponsored health insurance system customers” which means private insurance companies and employer sponsored health insurance issuers will have to pay more to these health care providers for the services they provide for their beneficiaries and of course these service fees will be higher than the Medicare-like government sponsored health insurance program rates. The results will be that these private insurance companies and employer sponsored health insurance issuers will have to charge higher health insurance premiums than the government sponsored health insurance program because their costs (health care provider charges) will be higher. Over time consumers will gravitate away from private health insurance company plans and choose the government sponsored plan because it will be cheaper. Similarly, employers will find that it is a better business decision to get off the tread mill of inordinately high yearly health insurance premium increases and drop their employer sponsored health insurance plans and just increase their employees’ wages enough to cover these employees added costs when these employees go and buy a government sponsored health insurance plan. It is basic common sense that a government sponsored health insurance program that has the advantage of legislatively being able to pay health care providers Medicare like rates will over time essentially kill the private health insurance system and the employer sponsored health insurance system in America.

    Union leadership should hold two specific viewpoints on the health care situation going on in Washington right now. One, the public option is a bad idea it will over time lead to a government run single-payer system that will not offer reliable high quality health care for the American worker and that worker’s family. Secondly, that this reform legislation in Congress once enacted does not mean Congress’s work is done on health care rather Congress must come back in 2011 or at the latest in 2013 and pass legislation that gets escalating health care costs under control they need to address the litigation element of health care costs and why does the American consumer pay more for drugs than consumers in other developed countries and why does medical technology costs more in America that other developed countries, etc.. This second point needs to be publicly adopted by union leadership in America because this point really protects their interests because union’s interests are for getting health care costs under control so America’s employers will not have an out about increasing wages at the rate that the American worker wants and deserves based on the legitimate position of employers that health benefits for employees, on a yearly basis, are rising much higher than the overall inflation rate.

    It really is a shame that the labor movement is putting such enormous resources behind the public option. Because they should be putting those resources behind the House’s initiative that will require employers who don’t provide employer sponsored health care to pay the government eight percent of their employees’ wages. This is really important because the Senate wants to only charge these employers $400 per employee. This is a big disparity of revenue coming from America’s employers to help solve America’s current health care problems that is at stake. Even more important and this calls for squaring the battleships and unleashing all their guns continually, the American government and American business owners and managers have to accept without question that if a business uses the labor of an American worker that business has a responsibility to pay a fair portion of the health care costs for that worker and that workers family. American workers have rights and this obligation on an employer stems from these rights. This principle has been a fundamental principle of the American Labor movement from its inception, it has been a principle carried into labor-management negotiations on countless occasions. The labor movement should stand up for this principle in the current negotiations and debate going on in Washington for this health care reform bill. The other thing is that if the Senate wins on this issue and the penalty on employers that drop employer sponsored health insurance is this light, unions will see an increase of, when their labor contracts expire, employers drop health insurance coverage and this will be a real loss for affected union membership. Unions are missing a real opportunity to create a good deterrent against employers dropping employer sponsored health insurance in union (and non-union) shops in not lobbing hard for the House’s provisions on this issue.

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