The F Word: Health Insurers Aim to Kill Public Option

The nation’s for profit health insurers are out to scuttle anything within the Obama health care plan that might be in any way public.

One week after the insurance lobby pledged to voluntarily constrain rising costs, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is preparing a public message campaign aimed at killing the public non-profit part of Obama’s reform plan.

Anyone who’s been watching has heard the data that have the insurance profiteers so scared. A government-run plan, with no need for profits for Wall Street or bonuses to retain CEOs — a plan run only to deliver healthcare for the public —  would cut the cost of healthcare. Period. Single payer advocates say that’s the only way to go but Obama’s still offering a compromise: a bit of both.

According to the Washington Post, as part of what it calls an "informational website," Blue Cross Blue Shield has hired an outside firm to make a series of videos to terrify the public about Obama’s so-called public option. In three 30-second videos, the insurer paints a picture of a future system in which patients wait months for appointments and can’t choose their own doctors.

One spot in the series shows a woman and child wandering down a darkened hospital doorway, "as if they’re starting to realize that they’ve lost their way," according to sketches of the video. "We can do a lot better than a government-run health care system," the narrator concludes.

The company’s tactics are familiar — remember the Harry and Louise ads? For profit-companies savaged Hillary Clinton’s reform plan. It’s right out of the right wing PR book: scare the public and lie about the facts. The fact is, Obama’s health care plan wouldn’t force anyone to choose the not-for-profit option.

But boy, how the insurers fear they might. Suddenly all those professed beliefs in free markets and competition are out the window. Profiteers don’t like that marketplace of competition with an option that’s non-profit.

What the private health care lobby understands that has them so frightened now is that public healthcare would preferable because it would likely be better and cheaper. Their fear just underscores the reality: it’s time to move beyond a sick system that’s rigged for profit to a public plan that’s actually about health. 

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