Ellen Beth Gill provides the first account I've seen of yesterday's Chicago health-care reform rally and the face-off between single-payer proponents and public-option advocates.
There once were two cats of Kilkenny.
Each thought there was one cat too many.
So they fought and they hit
And they scratched and they bit
Till (excepting their nails
And the tips of their tails)
Instead of two cats there weren't any!
Ellen describes it as a family squabble. Those, often, are the very worst kind.
In case you haven't been following along, the clan of health-reform cats all agree that the current system is broken, that insurance companies are greedy and deceitful and that something must be done to cover the millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans. It's when it comes to the plan that the hissing starts.
- Single payer: The single-payer side of the family, represented by such groups as Physicians for a National Health Program, the Chicago Single Payer Action Network and — last and least — me, believes that the best plan is a government-run health-care payment program, essentially extending the umbrella of Medicare to cover everyone, as proposed in legislation such as Medicare for All and the American Health Security Act. Proponents like this plan because it spreads the cost of health coverage across the entire nation; it eliminates unscrupulous, profit-making insurance companies; and it would cover everyone. Alas, some of our cats are sourpusses intent on perpetuating the family feud instead of trying to win the others' support.
- Public option: The public-option cousins, such as Health Care for America Now!, deprecate the health-insurance industry at the same time they say we should preserve it as a "choice." They say Medicare or something like it should be extended to cover people who aren't insured now, but that private insurance should continue alongside it, as in the Healthy Americans Act. These ’fraidy cats really want single-payer, but they so fear its opponents, they're not even going to try.
While the reform family has its cat fight, the insurance lobby stands by purring, using every sneaky trick it can to derail real change. "Eschewing any pretense that their primary concern is for medical consumers and taxpayers," as Timothy Noah writes, "they focus on the harm health care reform might bring to private health insurers." They know that, if they defeat extensive health-care reform now, as Drew Altman shows graphically, it might be 20 years till it resurfaces.
Health reform's Kilkenny cats must clan together to fight for universal health care now!