Chisara N. Asomugha

Chisara N. Asomugha

Chisara N. Asomugha is a pediatrician, health services researcher and ordained minister residing in New Haven, Conn. She also serves as vice president of the Orphans and Widows In Need Foundation.

Do Not Fear the Word 'Public'

Economists, by training, will more eloquently articulate the dollars and sense of a public option than I, as a physician. It would seem, though, that the more options available in a free market, the more affordable and better quality those options would be (competition). In all the discussions surrounding health care reform, what remains most fascinating are people's perceptions of a public option.

Have you ever noticed that when "public" is used descriptively in conversation -- public school, public transportation, public (or county) hospital -- the quality of the item is called into question? Change the word "public" to "private" and the perception is that the product is superior. It begs the question whether the public option is concerning not because it is a public option, but because the concept of a "public" anything brings to mind images of inferior or bureaucracy-laden goods. But a public option in health care may be a good thing.

Consider public transportation. Living in Los Angeles, you soon learn that the traffic can be dreadful. If you don't want to spend three hours on the 405 freeway to travel two miles, you could take public transportation (although many still don't).

Travel to the other side of the country to downtown Manhattan and you find that public transportation is the modus operandi of city dwellers. Now, imagine stripping New York City of its public transportation system. Some will be unfettered by the change. But for others, especially those who cannot afford alternative means of transportation, their only option is gone. Imagine the consequences for businesses, communities and families.

So it is with health care coverage. Creating options gives everyone the opportunity to access health care, regardless of status. Certain demographics may use the public option more than others, but all can benefit from having such an option, especially in tough times.

This isn't to suggest that the public option will not encounter some glitches. There are lessons to be learned from the Massachusetts model. Nevertheless, the public option, as it has been discussed, will offer choice where many do not have it. And maybe, as a result, insurance companies will redress their current health care coverage offerings. Given that our goal is to have a healthier society where people can choose what works best for them, having options on the table seems like a favorable idea.

By Chisara N. Asomugha  |  August 7, 2009; 7:43 PM ET  | Category:  Public option Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Consumers: "Give Us More Options!" | Next: The Public Option and the Lessons of Clintoncare


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In my employer-provided health plan, the premium is split between my employer and me.

In a public option health plan, the premium is split between who? The contract holder and me (through taxes)? That sucks. How many people's health plans am I going to pay for?

Once there is a public option where a share is paid for by the government, emplioyer plans will cease to exist.

Posted by: oldiesfan1 | August 22, 2009 3:11 PM
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Creating an option so that all are covered is a great thing. As commented above... we are already paying for it in one way or another.

I fail to see however how this will address the problem of Cost... not cost for insurance but cost for care...
Why can't people afford health insurance?
Cause it's expensive.
Cause premiums have to cover potential medical costs?
Because doctors need to get paid.
So Doctors can cover their costs (Staff, Supplies, Facility, Student Loans, Malpractice Insurance...)
So they can stay in business.

[should we keep going?]

The public option does nothing to address the underlying reasons of why people can't afford insurance or care.

Stop focusing on public option and focus on root cause.


Posted by: TKite | August 20, 2009 11:46 AM
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I could not contain my self after learning
about how the fire dept of a particular fire insurance company in colonial Philadelphia burn to the ground once their medallion is absent in a housse.
My view is that by requiring the emergency rooms of hospitals to take care of every public patient in emergency and billing him or her after they must have gone home treated,(hospital bills that are seldom paid)we are already operating a public health care system. You may choose to re brand it by any new name, which will only make things more complex.
In any case,there is always going to be public and private healthcare;those who can asfford it will refuse to stand in a long line at the public(county) hospitals
before being treated no matter how affordable you make it,while those who cannot will be forced to stand in the line
until they see the doctor;No one knows however, if they will be lucky to still see the doctor alive in such a public health hospital.
Tonna udegbunam writes from Los angeles california

Posted by: reachtonna | August 14, 2009 5:17 PM
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The public health system is not going to be perfect. it will have its short comings, no doubt. But the uninsured populations isn't exactly looking for a perfect system. if the public health system can get us through the rough health patches when we are sick then it has done its job. it doesn't have to be perfect to work. That is the beauty of it

Posted by: nwaizuzu | August 11, 2009 10:37 PM
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Options are good in some areas, but not in others. In colonial Philadelphia, there was no fire department. Each fire insurance company had its own private fire department. When you bought insurance, you got a medallion to put on your house. If a fire truck from the Green Tree company came to a burning house that had a Penn Mutual medallion, they would let it burn to the ground. After this happened a few times, a municipal fire department was established, a socialized fire department

What some people fail to realize is that some things like health care are best done by cooperation, by government while some things are best done by individuals. Their problem is that they cannot distinguish one from the other.

Posted by: lensch | August 11, 2009 12:53 PM
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