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Politics, Semantics and Medicare for Everyone

During the course of the heath reform debate raging on Capitol Hill, some supporters of the public option have conceded that the very nomenclature adopted to

Jul 31, 202037.4K Shares1.3M Views
During the course of the heath reform debate raging on Capitol Hill, some supporters of the public option have conceded that the very nomenclature adopted to describe the public plan — why not just say socialized medicine? — has threatened the push to create such an option to compete with private insurers.
“We’re talking about a private plan that is started by the government,” Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said last monthduring the Senate Finance Committee debate. “I think the public plan … is the wrong name for this.”
Well, some House Democrats think so too. And they’ve proposed to change the labeling. From The Hill:
House Democrats are looking at re-branding the public health insurance option as Medicare, an established government healthcare program that is better known than the public option….
While much of the public is foggy on what a public option actually is, people understand Medicare. It also would place the new public option within the rubric of a familiar system rather than something new and unknown.
This strategy could also act as a response to the persistent GOP criticisms that the Democrats’ health reforms would dismantle Medicare at the expense of patient care. Of course, the parallels run only so far. For one thing, Medicare is a single-payer system, while the public option would merely exist side-by-side in competition with a host of private insurance plans. Also, Medicare is heavily subsidized by taxpayers, while the public option, after its initial launch, would be self-sustaining, its revenue generated by patient premiums just like a private company. In fact, unlike some insurance companies, the public plan would be ineligible for government bailouts.
The question is, have Democrats waited too long to launch their re-branding effort?
Paula M. Graham

Paula M. Graham

Reviewer
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