Saturday, August 15, 2009

Commentary: Public option would be great for Louisiana

The Lafayette Daily Advertiser ran an op-ed piece on the public option in the paper today.

The link is in the headline of this post.

Here's the text that ran in a slightly edited form of what I submitted:

Commentary: Public option would be great for Louisiana

Big policy changes always are difficult even when all sides bargain in good faith. But the lies and distortions hurled against President Barack Obama's health-care reform plan reveal more about the desperation of its opponents than shed any light on the issue.

At the core of the president's health-care reform plan is the public option — a government health insurance program that will provide affordable access to health insurance coverage for working-age Americans. Think of it as Medicare for the rest of us. The public option will be just that — an option that individuals and companies can choose as a means to gain access to affordable health insurance coverage.

Attacks against the public option border on hysteria. This is not socialized medicine. The American Medical Association has endorsed the House bill containing the public option.

The public option will be great for Louisiana, where 20 percent of adults don't have health insurance. Only 54 percent of jobs here offer health insurance coverage. Only 34 percent of small businesses offer health insurance coverage to their employees.

The Louisiana health-care insurance market is not healthy. Currently, two companies dominate it.

We have proof in Lafayette that validates the public option model as a means of improving markets. The LUS Fiber Network has changed the behavior and improved the performance of both Cox and BellSouth/AT&T, delivering benefits to all Lafayette Parish telecommunications customers.

Cox is a better company in Lafayette today because the LUS Fiber Network exists. For a time, it held the line on pricing here while raising rates in other markets. Since the LUS project began rolling out, Cox has selected Lafayette as the first market where it deployed its most advanced technology.

LUS Fiber shows that the presence of a public option in the market drives benefits even to those consumers who do not take the service.

The public option in health care will bring similar positive change to the health insurance marketplace that will benefit Louisiana residents and businesses.

Mike Stagg of Lafayette is a civic activist and former congressional candidate.

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