Americans Want a Public Option on Health Care -- Here's How We Can Make it Happen

What's the one thing standing in the way of decent health care for all Americans? The U.S. Senate -- with help from the insurance industry lobby, of course.

As Congress debates health care reform, there has been no shortage of bickering, partisan pot shots and hollow accusations about "socializing" America's health care system. But the harem of institutional myths the right has summoned to maintain its bulging interests isn't seducing the majority of Americans, who know just how broken that system really is.

Our health care model, which at last count was leaving over 47 million Americans uninsured and millions more with poor care, is in dire need of radical reform.

Last year, the United States ranked horribly in a study of deaths that could have been prevented by timely access to health care. Conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the report found that of the 19 participating countries, France, Japan and Australia scored the highest. The U.S. was last.

"It is notable that all countries have improved substantially except the U.S.," concluded Ellen Nolte, lead author of the study.

As if that weren't enough, the World Health Organization recently ranked the U.S. system 37th in the world (one spot below Costa Rica and one above Slovenia, in case you were curious). Our life expectancy hovers at the dismal 24 spot, sandwiched between Israel and Cyprus.

What many of the countries that continue to score higher than us in these rankings have in common is universal access to health care. President Barack Obama has been vocal in his support for a public option -- an alternative that would allow all citizens access to a system like Medicaid; but congressional Republicans and some "centrist Democrats," caving to special interest groups like the insurance industry lobby, have been eager to mire the path.

Robert L. Borage, co-director of the Campaign For America's Future, explains: "The insurance lobby is unleashing the scare campaign. A strong bill will pass the House. But at this point, too many senators are still standing in the way."

It's time for the American people to make sure their voices ring louder than special interest groups. This is not just an issue of altruism -- affordable health care for everyone is in the economic interests of the country. "We now spend nearly 50 percent more on health care per capita than any other country, with mediocre results," Borage wrote.

Journalist Robert Parry helps illustrate the same problem in article of his own:

For a nation facing multiple fiscal crises -- all complicated by the costs of health care -- one might think that the most sure thing in the health care debate would be to allow a cost-saving public option, which as President Barack Obama says would help keep private health insurers "honest" regarding their promises to trim waste and control premiums.

According to a New York Times/CBS poll, that point is obvious to 72 percent of the American people who favor "offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans."

The American people want a public option, and it's up to concerned citizens like you to learn more about the issues surrounding Obama's plan. We must ensure that no more Americans die because of corporate bureaucracy. Here are five places you can go to learn more and take action.

Health Care For America Now

Health Care For America Now and the Institute for America's Future recently teamed up to produce a useful, state-by-state report on health care affordability. The report indicates that although health care costs in America have increased by 120 percent in the last nine years, wages have only gone up 29 percent. The result is a growing failure to stay insured among Americans who had been struggling to make their meager paychecks meet medical costs. As many as 52 million people could be uninsured next year, the study claims.

Health Care for America Now also offers a platform for readers to get involved in activities that promote health care for everyone. Its "Take Action" section is loaded with useful information, dates and causes. Check it out here.

Stand With Dr. Dean

Howard Dean, former Vermont governor and a physician, has created an organization designed to pressure policymakers to pass public option legislation. "Any legislation without the choice of a public option," he writes, "is only insurance reform and not the health care reform America needs."

"We support health care reform that allows individual Americans to choose either a universally available public health care option like Medicare or for-profit private insurance," Dean's statement reads. "A public option is the only way to guarantee health care for all Americans, and its inclusion is non-negotiable."

You can join Dean and nearly 400,000 others who have thrown their support behind Obama's public plan. Sign up here.

Campaign for America's Future

Did you know that a lack of health insurance coverage causes 22,000 deaths each year in the U.S? Did you know that among the uninsured, 80 percent are employed? What about the fact that people without health insurance are more likely to delay medical care, or to get less care and to die when they get sick?

Campaign for America's Future is a valuable resource for understanding nuances of America's splintered health care system like these. Providing readers with a wealth of well-organized information to get the care we all need, CFAF is ammunition against the smothering oppression of corporate interests.

We can't afford to sit on the sidelines of this issue. Become part of Campaign for America's Future right now.

At the forefront of activism for public option health care is As the fight for real reform heats up, it's absolutely necessary that we throw our support behind an organization with as much organizing power and repute as MoveOn.

Join thousands of others who "strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans." You can do it here.

Credo Action

Just months after being picked as Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Daschle was discovered to have over $100,000 in unpaid taxes. He went back to his old job at the Bipartisan Policy Center, an institution that has pervasive funding ties with the pharmaceuticals lobby.

Daschle, who many initially believed would be a valuable member of Obama's health care reform team, soon did something disappointing: He proposed a "solution" to the health care crisis that included giving states the sole right to administer public insurance pools -- not the federal government. This would only increase the deficit and further hurt the millions already being ripped off by the insurance companies.

Now's not the time for Daschle to be making counterproductive policy proposals. Join Credo Action in telling Daschle to stop undermining meaningful change by saying public option shouldn't be on the table.


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