Public Option Out?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A late-night deal in Washington has Democrats hopeful they can move the health care bill ahead, but pit will likely come at the expense of a full-fledged public option. Politico Capitol Hill reporter Glenn Thrush has the deal-making details; and former Clinton health care adviser Paul Starr offers his take.


Paul Starr and Glenn Thrush

Comments [37]

Ken from Manhattan

Writes Robert from NYC December 09, 2009 - 10:16AM:

"Why would someone quit their job just because they buy into Medicare! Sounds dumb to me. Where do these people get their ideas and thoughts?"

What with retirement savings, equity in the apartment, and social security, we (aged 56 and 57) would be able to call the working world quits and squeak, albeit abstemiously, by, inshallah . . . all but for the cost of health insurance ($30,000, Empire Blue Cross).

So here we are, stressing ourselves out, which is supposed to be unhealthy, just to be able afford the medical fixes that'll enable us to go back and stress ourselves out some more. Which is (a) absurd, and (b) not uncommon.

So, Robert from NYC, that's where "these people get their ideas and thoughts."

Or, to put the same point another way: It's a big world out there.

Dec. 10 2009 10:11 AM
Sam from Manhattan

I am a Physician who practices general internal medicine both in the office and in the hospital (at a teaching hospital).

The lack of a public option to cover all Americans
is a tremendous mistake. I can't begin to describe the number of people I have taken care with advanced diseases which could have been prevented if they had access to primary care (usually middle aged folks). Furthermore, I have seen many young people who have developed a catastrophic illness that bankrupts them.

This bill is better than nothing, but clearly the fundamental problems in our system have not been addressed.

Dec. 09 2009 03:46 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Williamsburgh, Brooklyn

Hello, Brian, What are we supposed to do until 2014? I need medical care now and I also need to see a dentist. If I don't, my teeth might eventually fall out. It is incredible that we the uninsured have to wait so long for medical care. Even seeing it with my own eyes, it is still hard for me to believe that this is so. We are human beings and America citizens. Let the politicians do away with all their haggling and start doing something for us, the people. Eugenia Renskoff

Dec. 09 2009 02:32 PM
Kathy in CT from Fairfield County CT

DID ANYONE actually listen to what Brian and Paul Starr were saying?

Or read a newspaper today?

In ADDITION to Medicare for those over 55, the current plan being costed out (from NY Times):

" . . . . . calls for the creation of a new menu of national insurance plans, modeled after those offered to more than eight million federal workers, including members of Congress, and their dependents.

The new insurance plans would be overseen by a federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management, which now runs the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and directly negotiates prices and benefits packages with private insurance companies. The private firms eagerly participate because of the large customer base. "

THAT IS the public option for those under 55.

For months folks have been saying "Well I wish WE could get the same plans the senators and administration have." WELL THIS IS IT. For those who can pay, we'll pay (but FEHBP gets far lower premiums than we could ever) and for those who can't, there will be subsidies.

GOOD GRIEF PEOPLE -- this is the best thing that's been proposed since last February and everyone is whining because it doesn't say PUBLIC OPTION in big purple neon letters.

The good thing about this approach is that both Medicare and the FEHPB are already up and in existence, so instead of waiting till 2014 (yup) for a NEW program to be created from scratch, we could enroll in these programs MUCH sooner.

If you listened to the program and don't get this, listen again and listen to what Paul Starr says. He's probably the smartest guy in the country on healthcare policy and he said this whole new approach is a great idea.


Dec. 09 2009 02:28 PM
Todd from Catskill, NY

I'm not 55. Well, It looks like we have a lot of trash to take out in 2010. This is a spit in the face to the American people and makes a sham out of the so-called Democratic process allowing 4 undercover republicans to call the shots on heath care. At least we can vote for some fresh faces and lets make sure they support Legalizing Marijuana as well.

Dec. 09 2009 01:07 PM
Alex from Brooklyn

By the reaction on Wall Street I would have to bet that this will be a HUGE money grab by insurance companies, hospitals, drug companies and doctors...

Congrads to our spineless legislators, print money and pray you get re-elected


Dec. 09 2009 01:00 PM
CC from NYC

Worth mentioning that a dental hygienist gets paid 80% what a primary care pediatrician gets paid. Also some of us do still develop a relationship with our patients and see them in the hospital.


Dec. 09 2009 11:49 AM
Mike from Scotland

I was sitting whining two minutes ago about National Insurance (which funds, at least in part, our national health system) going up by 0.5p in the pound from 2011. Having just read these posts my opinion has completely changed. How can anyone be expected to maintain payments of these levels throughout their life. The NHS may be costly and not as good as we would like but I guess we should remember that we don't have to buy health insurance to be protected. Away to go and thank my lucky stars.

Dec. 09 2009 10:38 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

The only real lasting effect of Tea Baggers with their belief that the only thing that matters is "paying down the debt" is the mainstreaming of poor understanding and semi-education on on complex interrelated subjects like health care, economics, science, so on and so forth.

To wit: half baked products are inedible.

The US is currently planning for and will be forced to deal with their deficit and debt financing whether anyone that likes it or not; but to put all the effort towards that now is foolish and will lead to a Japan-style, economic "lost decade."

Dec. 09 2009 10:33 AM
hjs from 11211

there are no votes for anything better.

Dec. 09 2009 10:32 AM
Ann Hall Every, CCP from Forest Hills

Consider this: citizens of the UK reaching the age of 60 receive all of their medications for free.

My 80 year old brother-in-law just had his second hip replacement at no cost to him.

Here in the U.S. I spent one night in a hospital in a semi-private room at a cost of $4,400. That was only the room cost - nothing else.

We are really being abused as citizens here when it comes to our healthcare for profit system.

Dec. 09 2009 10:30 AM
huw from Brooklyn NY

Harry Reid wants to pass the proposals by the Masters in Health Insurance and Big Pharma before publicizing them.

Dec. 09 2009 10:28 AM
mozo from nyc

I don't know of ANYONE my age (48) that is even remotely considering retiring at 55. They can't afford to, period. This doesn't sound like a realistic scenario for most Americans.

Dec. 09 2009 10:28 AM
Edward from NJ

The public option that people have in their heads bears little or no relationship the version in the House bill or anything that would get through the Senate. The public option in the House bill won't reduce costs because it would actually have little leverage to negotiate with providers. People complain about their doctors not taking Medicare or their insurance plan. If a public option seriously tried to control costs, lots of doctors wouldn't take it.

Dec. 09 2009 10:27 AM
Margaret Ross from Manhattan

Altho the new proposal would cover my age group, many of us have 20 somethings who appear to be uninsurable at this point. Mine graduated from law school this year, is unemployed, cannot be added to our plan because we work in the public sector and because she's been in school for 3 years cannot be covered under Healthy New York. Does anything in the new plan cover these kids?

Dec. 09 2009 10:26 AM
Nancy from Manhattan

Wow, caller Susan, it first sounded like you were paying UNDER $400/month for insurance on the private market as an individual -- which would be incredible! -- but then you said it was a small business rate. My heart sank.

If anyone knows of insurance on the INDIVIDUAL market for $400 or less per month, please post!

For Empire Blue Cross HMO-POS (Point of Service) plan for a parent and one child in New York County right now, on the open market as an individual (NOT group rate), premiums are OVER $2,600 PER MONTH! Yes, $30,000 per year for health insurance.


Dec. 09 2009 10:26 AM
huw from Brooklyn NY

A requirement of 90% going to care. Ha! Will NEVER make it into bill. But the insurers would just RAISE rates until the dollar value of what they are getting personally is equal to or greater than what they get now.

Moreover, they'll find a loophole.... Depends on what the meaning of "care" is....

Dec. 09 2009 10:26 AM
jmt from Westchester

To add more perspective to healthcare costs for self-employed -- I'm a 62-year-old freelancer, and the best I can do on my own is HMO coverage through Oxford of $893.06 per month! Next year it's going up to $1,062. I tried to get into Aetna, and the only policy available to me was in the $900 per month range.

Please get the option for Medicare for those of us in the 60's available next year--sooner rather than later will help me.

Dec. 09 2009 10:25 AM
Sabrina from Manhattan

THE LIMITS OF MEDICARE: MOST general doctors in NYC do NOT take Medicare, e.g., internists and gynecologists. And when they do, there are visits excluded from this coverage, e.g. annual exam must be paid out of pocket by you.

Dec. 09 2009 10:25 AM
Robert from NYC

Because they take away another lump of older people and are sicker, that's why they insurers and pharma cos are happy about this.

Dec. 09 2009 10:24 AM
Jennifer Hickey from Flushing, Queens

My father, a trained mechanical engineer with over 30 yrs in the business, was layed off in 2008 and has been not have been able to find a job in the field. He is neraly 62 yrs old, so will be eligible fot Social Security in a few months, but is without health care coverage. Extending Medicare to the 55-65 yr old group makes sense since it is that age bracket that will not likely return to the job market.

Dec. 09 2009 10:24 AM
Jane from New Jersey

My mother in South Carolina is on Medicare. Her doctor charges her more that $50 each visit to submit the Medicare paperwork. Is this common or even legal?

Dec. 09 2009 10:24 AM
Yun Cee from Astoria

I'm listening right now and I am upset that the Dr. on air right now thinks that the lady who's 64 yrs old situation is "unique." Anyone who is self-employed have to jump through so many hoops and red tape in order to get decent health care that physicians will take. Take notice of self employed. Small businesses are very important to the economy but many cannot pay for health insurance. And if they can afford it, it is so expensive that many cannot "spend" the money elsewhere to "boost" economy.

Dec. 09 2009 10:23 AM
Beth Browde from New York (Manhattan)

I don't know what kind of coverage your last caller was getting from Aetna. I also have a small business and had to drop Aetna coverage because it cost me over $1000 a month for PPO coverage for a single 55 year old. I now have worse coverage but cheaper through the Freelancer's Union.

Dec. 09 2009 10:23 AM
huw from Brooklyn NY

I'm 44 and my health insurance just went up from $834 per month to $1134 per month! Almost 25% in one year. And now on the order of $14,000 per year. For this, Empire BC BS denies _every_ claim. My conversations with doctors offices suggests that Empire is one of the _worst_ for denials.

One way or another, the 65 yr-old caller seems to me to be an exceptional case.

Dec. 09 2009 10:23 AM
George from rockland

The caller (woman) just on said she was 64? How was she on Medicare.

Dec. 09 2009 10:23 AM
Chuck from Brooklyn

This stinks.

What about people that are between 35 to 50?

Are we supposed to rot on the street?

Dec. 09 2009 10:22 AM
Hugh from Upper West Side

My wife and I would qualify for this, but we have an 11-year-old daughter. Would she be covered?

Dec. 09 2009 10:19 AM
charles harris from island heights nj

The Public Option that would take care of young people starting out, as well as recently unemployed would be the deployment of HHS Primary Care Centers that charge fees marked to affordability, so medically indigent get comprehensive primary care, and the system could grow from there. These centers are populated with pediatrician, primary care md, Internist and gynecology. To read more see

TDhsi is supportive and better than forcing young people into a system juswt to support a failing system

Dec. 09 2009 10:18 AM
Robert from NYC

Why would someone quit their job just because they buy into Medicare! Sounds dumb to me. Where do these people get their ideas and thoughts?

Dec. 09 2009 10:16 AM
Jay F. from manhattan

Please... No one can afford to retire to make room for jobs. Get real.

Dec. 09 2009 10:16 AM
Robert from NYC

You got that right Bobby [2], and even younger... like, EVERYBODY. We need, must have a European style healthcare system not questions asked nor debate required.

Dec. 09 2009 10:14 AM
Zach from UWS

Medicare for all... Are you kidding Brian? If you only count Americans 55 and older than yes, this is universal coverage. This is just more of the same: protecting older Americans at the expense of our younger generations, simply because older Americans have the votes and the money. It's disgusting.

Dec. 09 2009 10:13 AM
Marleny from Harlem

Isnt the expansion of medicare, keeping the price of insurance and medical costs where they are and funnel more government money to hospitals, and pharma and medical equipment companies?

Dec. 09 2009 10:13 AM

on the face of it i see medicare recipients both relatively satisfied w their care and also vociferously defended by interest groups including their representatives.

adding to this already existing pool by lowering the eligibility age certainly would seem to have its merits. The interests and necessary systems are already in place.

Dec. 09 2009 10:11 AM
Bobby G from East Village

What is needed for a public option is 25 year olds not 55 year olds.

Dec. 09 2009 10:10 AM
Bobby G from East Village

What I know is that my Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield premiums have increased more than 50% in the past two years.

A public option -- which is now dead -- would mitigate that kind of outrageous increase.

What we have in Washington is weak leadership.

Dec. 09 2009 10:06 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.