Between the bizarre contentions of lunatic fringe opponents who read way too much science fiction and the opposition of elderly citizens who don't seem to know that "government-run health insurance" is a pretty fair description of their beloved Medicare, you really don't know whether to laugh or throw something.
The fact is that there are no perfect proposals among those that have been floated in either the House or the Senate. But I think it would be much more productive to complain about things that are actually in those proposals — coverage mandates, "pay or play" provisions, etc. — rather than making stuff up.
Of course, these reactions may run the gamut from counterproductive to silly but they are at least in character. Back in 1945, when Harry Truman first proposed some form of medical insurance for seniors to become a part of Social Security, conservatives immediately started muttering about "socialized medicine."
It took another twenty years for Congress to pass the legislation that created Medicare and Medicaid. So, we are at least running true to form.
Small business owners have shown themselves to be much more practical than partisan when it comes to this particular issue. We all know that health care reform really needs to happen, sooner rather than later. And, no matter how you may feel about the government dipping its evil fingers into the health care marketplace, it's pretty clear that the marketplace is not going to self-correct.
As others have noted before me, it doesn't matter what they do in Washington, it would be difficult to imagine a system that is worse than the one we have now!
Which brings me to today's topic. I wanted to say a few words to you about the public option.
I'm bringing this up because one or two microbusiness owners have asked, in my hearing, why other small business owners are said to oppose a public option. I don't have any of knowing whether other small business owners do, in fact, oppose it. I know that a lot of small business lobbying organizations oppose it — but that is not precisely the same thing.
The debate over that particular leg of the President's proposal is most certainly a throwback to the 1940's, with the accusations of ‘socialized medicine' and ‘back-door government takeover of health care.' In fact, the accusations are old enough to warrant noting that Medicaid and Medicare did not, in fact, lead to a government takeover of the health care business.
In other words, to paraphrase the late George Carlin, mother's milk does not lead to heroin.
It is also worth noting that the phrase is ‘public option.' I suspect the public option, if it is passed into law, will be used primarily by low-income individuals, and perhaps self- employed individuals and microbusiness owners who have not been able to get affordable coverage elsewhere.
For the rest of us, it's very simple. If you don't like "government-run health insurance," that is fine. You don't have to use it. Note, once again, that the "option" part of the concept is operational.
While the public option (or whatever they're calling it this week) may not loom all that large for most small business owners, it will matter quite a bit if it keeps reform from happening at all. It will also matter if a low priced government-run insurance option puts downward pressure on premium prices among private insurers.
Ultimately, what is going to matter to both the economy and the small business owners operating within it will be the degree to which reform efforts cause costs to decline. As we all know, the bottom line is the bottom line, isn't it?
I don't really know whether the current reform proposals will bring down costs but I do know that shooting down reform efforts altogether certainly won't.
What do you think about the way the health care reform debate (such as it is) has been going over the summer? Do you want Congress to address this issue or do you oppose government intervention in the health care marketplace? And what do you think about those who claim to speak for us, the small business owners? Drop a note in the comments and let us know what you think.
* * * * *
About the Author: Dawn Rivers Baker, an award-winning small business journalist, regularly reports and analyzes small business policy and research as the Publisher of the
, where the nation’s business meets microbusiness. She also publishes the .