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Wednesday, Sep 23, 2009, 7:28 am

Daily Pulse: Astroturfing the Public Option

By Lindsay Beyerstein
The Senate Finance Committee is slogging through literally hundreds of proposed amendments to the Baucus health care reform bill. The bill still doesn't have a public option, but there's a good chance that insurance subsidies will be revised upwards, as Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly reports.

Last Sunday, President Obama made his pitch for health reform on five national TV talk shows. John Nichols of the Nation criticizes Obama for his uninspired and frankly unappealing depiction of the public option:
Indeed, as Obama describes his notion of a public option, it is so constrained, under-funded and uninspired in approach as to be dysfunctional.

While there is no question that the right reform remains a single-payer "Medicare for All" system that provides quality care for all Americans while eliminating insurance company profiteering, if the best that can be hoped for is a government-supported alternative to the corporate options, then it should be robust enough to compete.

Obama advocates a public option open to the uninsured only, not to anyone who wants to buy in. If the goal of the public option is to reduce costs through competition, a limited public option would be self-defeating. A public option is supposed to drive down prices through competition. Obama's version of a public option couldn't compete: It would only take cases the insurers already rejected!

Speaking of insurers, Brian Beutler and Zach Roth report in Talking Points Memo that insurance company Humana is under fire for trying to scare senior citizens into resisting health reform, specifically cuts in Medicare Advantage, a federally subsidized private insurance plan. If so, Humana is in big trouble. Astroturfing seniors is a violation of the strict rules the government imposes on communications with Advantage beneficiaries.

Public News Service reports that health care activist Joe Szakos goes on trial in Virginia today for allegedly trespassing while protesting insurance rate hikes. Szakos is a member of the Virginia Organizing Project, a non-profit social justice group seeking accountability from insurers.

Obama made his first speech to the United Nations (UN) yesterday at the UN Summit on Climate Change in New York. Nearly a hundred heads of state met to iron out differences face-to-face before the official negotiations on a global climate pact begin on Copenhagen on Dec 18. In RH Reality Check, Karen Hardee and Kathleen Mogelgaard explain the link between reproductive freedom and climate change. New research reaffirms that contraception could be a powerful tool to help fight global warming:
So how does reproductive health fit into this picture? A new study by the UK-based Optimum Population Trust and the London School of Economics shows the connection between contraceptives and climate change. The study concludes that universal access to reproductive health could be one of the most cost effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A Population Action International report from May detailed how population dynamics, not just overall growth, contribute to climate change.

Note that population activists aren't saying that women in the developing world ought to have fewer children for the sake of the planet. They're saying that societies grow in smarter, healthier, and ultimately greener ways when women have the power to control their own fertility.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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