The Opt Option 

The Trojan Horse inside the Trojan Horse

I believe I've made my opinions clear enough throughout this months-long spectacle, but here they are again in the condensed version: I think we ought to have a government-run healthcare system like the civilized countries do, and I think that a great many insurance company executives ought to be getting their meals slopped onto aluminum trays by a prison kitchen work crew for the crimes they have already committed against humanity. I think that Americans' health, lives and futures are too precious to be left to the discretion of jackals who would rip whole families to shreds and then abandon their gnawed, bankrupt bones on the dismal Plain of Pre-Existing Conditions or in the soulless Caves of Lifetime Limit. I think health care may not be a right on the same exalted level as freedoms of speech, worship and assembly, but it's a hell of a lot closer to being a right than it is to being a privilege. Being awarded the key to the city, being allowed to ride on Air Force One, being accepted into the Shriners ... those are privileges. Being given equal access to health care in the wealthiest, most medically advanced nation in the history of the world is not a privilege. It is what decent men and women owe one another. It is an understanding--common to all but the Republican Party, it seems--that no human should suffer, wither away, die, when the only thing standing between him and his remedial salvation is his inability to pay for it. I think that the biggest reason so many on the Right find a government system abhorrent is because they're worried a few of their tax dollars might go to heal an African American or a Mexican illegal. And I think that even if it doesn't happen this year or even under this administration, it is only a matter of time before what I think should happen will come to pass, just as it's always been a matter of time before liberal attitudes and solutions are adopted by an evolving human nature and expanding human consciousness.

Whew! I wrote that all in one breath. I wanted to get it all down before anything final happens in the Senate with the you-know-what.

And you bet, I meant what I said a couple sentences back about the racist element to this struggle. I know and anticipate that the racists in the audience are going to howl like hungry hounds about how it doesn't have anything to do with race, but let 'em howl. It's not important whether racists admit their racism. It's only important that the rest of us recognize it for what it is.

Sadly (and I write this without knowing what the final bill will look like), I will probably not get everything I'd wish for with this diluted version of decency. As Sen. Joe Lieberman and the 40 senatorial thieves are intent on killing all hopes for a public option, it's likely we'll have to wait a few years--at the going rate of 45,000 unnecessary deaths per year--before the ratchet advances another notch or two and we get that government plan. But it's coming. And if you're one of the uninsured, just try to hang on until it gets here.

In the meantime, should we indeed end up with a public option, I'm sort of hoping that "opt-out" compromise comes with it. A full, unsabotagable, Republican-resistant public option would be the ideal, of course, but between the 40 Republicans in the Senate and the four quaking Democrats who seem to think their puny political careers are more important than providing relief to suffering people, I suspect a public option with the "opt-out" feature will be the best we can get this time.

But think about it. Say the opt-out ends up in. And let's say the predictable Republican governors and legislatures actually opt out. Take Idaho. This may be somewhat unfair to Butch who, unlike some of his more nittier-wittier gubernatorial brethren, did accept the stimulus money. But if not Otter, then I would expect that annual gathering of geniuses--our State Legislature--to make the opt-out move. They may even want to be the first state to opt out. They may even hold a special session, dedicated to one thing only: a grandiloquent opt-out.

Aaaah, but then: In a couple of years, maybe sooner, the people of Idaho--even the Republicans--would start to notice how folks in those other states--those Democratic states--are paying less for health insurance. A lot less. And how they're not being denied coverage because of some contrived condition. And how everyone is covered. And how nobody is going bankrupt to pay for Mom's chemo or Dad's dialysis. And how everyone but the insurance hawkers are as happy as clams with the way it's going. And how small businesses are prospering and how employees are getting raises because their employers no longer carry the burden of insurance benefits and how new businesses will not even consider setting up shop in states that have opted out and how the entire economic sector has surged ahead of Idaho because insurance companies can no longer smother families unmercifully with outrageous premiums and how budget shortfalls are a thing of the past and how all of the sudden, the leaders who opted out look like demented idiots and the opposition party, which promises to opt us back in, are looking pretty, pretty good.

Whew! I wrote that all in one breath, too. Had to, I was so excited thinking about it. And wouldn't you be, too ... to imagine the entire Republican Party, state by state, opting itself out of existence?

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