Gov. Howard Dean has a new rallying cry: "You have the choice" when it comes to healthcare reform, or you will, if a healthcare reform plan goes through with a strong public option, and he lays it out in his new book, Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform.
In fact, Governor Dean says:
The bottom line on healthcare reform is that it is not worth doing if it is not done right....
Subsidizing Americans to buy private health insurance without giving them the choice of a more rational and less expensive system is simply pouring money into a system that increases costs at twice the rate of inflation, serves preferentially those who don't need help, and offers not peace of mind to those at risk in difficult economic times.
In short, the healthcare reform bill is not worth passing unless the American people have the choice of signing up for a public option--a real public option.... If healthcare reform is not the desired outcome, this administration or the Democratic Party or the Congress as a whole should pass guaranteed issue and community rating and be done with it.
Dean points out that guaranteed issue (private insurers won't be able to drop subscribers if they become ill or reach a certain age) and community rating (companies won't be able to have excessive rates for people with significant illnesses or for the elderly) are key insurance reforms, but in and of themselves, aren't actual healthcare reform. That real reform only comes with choice.
Choice, Dean explains, is also why he doesn't think a single payer health system is the answer for the United States:
You can't take choice away from Americans. This country was founded on the idea that individuals can make their own choices and are free to make their own mistakes.
Furthermore, there will be inefficiency and bureaucracy in any plan, public or private. There will be, inevitably, Americans who are dissatisfied with their plan, whether they've chosen the public or private option. They should be free to change plans. If you have only one plan, no change is possible.
Within those parameters, Dean makes an excellent and extremely readable case for why substantive, structural reform isn't just necessary, it's imperative for the nation's economic recovery in the short term, and for establishing an economic base to build a sustainable future. He talks about something that has rarely come up in this debate so focused on the 47 million Americans without insurance--the 25 million who have insurance but don't get regular medical care because they can only afford catastrophic care coverage. He talks about the cost to American businesses--small and large--in trying to keep up with the the cost of insuring themselves and their employees--costs that have risen 119 percent in the past decade.
He, along with co-authors Faiz Shakir from Center for American Progress and Igor Volsky from Think Progress's Wonk Room, provides the reader with all the information she needs to argue for a) the necessity for real reform, and b) the key elements for that reform. That includes a chapter on the myths (aka, the Frank Luntz talking points) the right-wing is using in the debate, and the facts that rebut every one of those myths. Here's the three authors talking about just that.
All of these facts, figures, and talking points are provided in the book for one reason, and it's a familiar one coming from Gov. Dean: to provide you with all the ammunition you need to help get real reform enacted. Anyone who reads this book will be able to talk intelligently and convincingly about a broad range of healthcare related topics, from how various industrialized European countries provide this public good to why his most controversial idea for funding reform, a carbon tax, actually makes sense.
All this is to get you out there talking to your friends, family, and neighbors about healthcare reform; calling your representatives, writing letters to the editor; calling into talk shows and cable shows. As he says in the book, "Successful political campaigns never stop."
The purpose of electing a Democratic president was not simply to elect a Democratic president. The purpose of electing a Democratic president was to have a president in office who cared about ordinary people, and who is willing to fight hard for principles against the well-heeled forces in our nation's capital that resist change at every turn.
This is your fight.
You do have the power, after all. With that, I'll turn it over to Governor (and Dr.) Dean. But first, check out a special announcement I found in my inbox this morning from him, below the fold.
As you know, I've been working with Democracy for America—with support from all of you—on a huge grassroots campaign for the choice of a public health insurance option.
We've collected petition signatures, written letters to the editor, held town halls and more in an effort to educate Americans on the necessity of passing real healthcare reform. And it's working—76 percent of Americans now say they support the choice of a public health insurance option.
There's still work to be done.
We must keep the pressure on Congress and those in Washington who oppose real change. We must keep up our efforts to get our message out to all Americans with letters to the editor and neighborhood canvasses. And I will continue to speak out in my nationwide tour of town halls, targeted rallies, and T.V. appearances.
In fact, I hope you can join me at one of my next big events. I'll be hosting a town-hall style keynote session at the Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh on Friday, August 14. If you can make it to Pittsburgh, this is a convention you don’t want to miss.
This town hall style keynote won't be a one-way conversation. I'll be answering your questions, as well as answering questions submitted in advance online. We'll chat about obstacles and next steps. Who the leaders fighting for a public option really are and who aren't. And what's next in the Stand with Dr. Dean Campaign.
I’ve spoken at Netroots Nation conventions before, but this is the first time we've been able to make it interactive and conversational. You know I don’t pull any punches. I'm looking forward to speaking honestly with you about how to pass meaningful reform that makes sure everyone in America can get the heatlhcare they need.
The keynote will be held Friday morning at 9 a.m. If you haven't already registered, click here to sign up.
I hope you can join me in Pittsburgh.
Thank you for everything you do,
Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
Founder, Democracy for America