Daily Pulse: Astroturfing the Public Option

This article is published in partnership with The Media Consortium, of which RH Reality Check is a member organization.

The Senate Finance Committee is slogging through literally hundreds
of proposed amendments to the Baucus health care reform bill. The bill
still doesn’t have a public option, but there’s a good chance that
insurance subsidies will be revised upwards, as Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly reports.

Last Sunday, President Obama made his pitch for health reform on five national TV talk shows. John Nichols of the Nation criticizes Obama for his uninspired and frankly unappealing depiction of the public option:

Indeed, as Obama describes his notion of a public
option, it is so constrained, under-funded and uninspired in approach
as to be dysfunctional.

While there is no question that the right reform remains a
single-payer “Medicare for All” system that provides quality care for
all Americans while eliminating insurance company profiteering, if the
best that can be hoped for is a government-supported alternative to the
corporate options, then it should be robust enough to compete.

Obama advocates a public option open to the uninsured only, not to
anyone who wants to buy in. If the goal of the public option is to
reduce costs through competition, a limited public option would be
self-defeating. A public option is supposed to drive down prices
through competition. Obama’s version of a public option couldn’t
compete: It would only take cases the insurers already rejected!

Speaking of insurers, Brian Beutler and Zach Roth
report in Talking Points Memo that insurance company Humana is under
fire for trying to scare senior citizens into resisting health reform,
specifically cuts in Medicare Advantage, a federally subsidized private
insurance plan. If so, Humana is in big trouble. Astroturfing seniors is a violation of the strict rules the government imposes on communications with Advantage beneficiaries.

Public News Service reports that health care activist Joe Szakos goes on trial in Virginia today for allegedly trespassing while protesting insurance rate hikes. Szakos is a member of the Virginia Organizing Project, a non-profit social justice group seeking accountability from insurers.

Obama made his first speech to the United Nations (UN) yesterday at
the UN Summit on Climate Change in New York. Nearly a hundred heads of
state met to iron out differences face-to-face before the official
negotiations on a global climate pact begin on Copenhagen on Dec 18. In
RH Reality Check, Karen Hardee and Kathleen Mogelgaard explain the link
between reproductive freedom and climate change. New research reaffirms that contraception could be a powerful tool to help fight global warming:

So how does reproductive health fit into this picture? A
new study by the UK-based Optimum Population Trust and the London
School of Economics shows the connection between contraceptives and
climate change. The study concludes that universal access to
reproductive health could be one of the most cost effective ways to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A Population Action
International report from May detailed how population dynamics, not
just overall growth, contribute to climate change.

Note that population activists aren’t saying that women in the
developing world ought to have fewer children for the sake of the
planet. They’re saying that societies grow in smarter, healthier, and
ultimately greener ways when women have the power to control their own

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