The Public Option (or) Banks vs. Credit Unions

I’ve been thinking a bit about the defeat of “the public option” for health care in the Senate Finance committee bill, and it may not be as bad as folks fear. We need to remember our goal is not to have a public option — the public option is simply a mechanism to increase competition to bring down health care costs. If we remember that the goal is lower health care costs and not simply government involvement, there may be a way through this.

Let me explain. I’ve always thought of the battle for a public option to go against the soulless greedy private insurers 🙂 as akin to credit unions vs. banks. Credit unions affect the market by being shareholder owned non-profits, and the competition forces banks to either provide unique services or lowers the costs. In return, credit unions have limitations, such as not typically providing business accounts, or having limited fields of membership.

Suppose we were to focus on this non-profit model, which I believe is permitted under the Baucus proposal. Think of “health unions”, which are owned by the insured members, not shareholder. The incentive would be to lower costs for their members, not make profits and deny coverage. They might be given some tax advantages (I believe credit unions have some tax advantages) as an incentive for their existance, but might also be limited, like credit unions, to serving limited groups (perhaps geographic, perhaps employer based or school based — some common interest or thread). But such a model could still work on encouraging lower costs for health services without having the level of government involvement that folks fear about the “public option”.

If I recall correction, there have been efforts like this in other insurance areas: weren’t the “mutuals” actually owned by their policy holders, not explicitly for profit (think things like Mutual of Omaha). As I recall, when they went for-profit, they had to return some money to the policyholders/owners.

Would this work? Am I off base? It might be a way to a middle ground that will achieve the most important goal — improving the health care situation in this country. That’s what we should be working towards, not what this party or that party wants as the specifics.


A Disappointing Field

Today, I took the time to look at the sample ballot for the 2009 Election in Los Angeles.

I’m very disappointed.

C’mon, couldn’t someone with a chance or a qualification challenge Villaraigosa? I’m not that happy with the job he’s done (he seems to be more focused on advancing his career than helping the city). He certainly hasn’t done anything to bring business back to Los Angeles, or to help the San Fernando Valley. Speculation is that he’s going to running for something else come 2010. So why reelect him?

But then I look at the other candidates:

  • Carlos Alvarez: the ballot says “legal assistant”, but a quick google shows he’s the candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Next.
  • Gordon Turner: A deputy city attorney. The front page of his website says “This administration will focus on linking the communities through our commonalities while at the same time respecting the flavor of our differences, which make us unique.” Huh? Next.
  • Walter Moore. Haven’t heard of him. Web page looks interesting. Republican, but a possibility. The City Beat article on him is interesting. But he’s not getting much publicity.
  • Phil Jennerjahn: Was a precinct captain for McCain. Has some interesting ideas, but comes across as a bit too conservative, at least for me.
  • James Harris. Socialist Workers Party candidate. Next.
  • David Hernandez. Political activist. Seems to come across as a bit naive.
  • Bruce Darian. Site is loaded with large videos. Can’t design a website, can’t get me the information I need to consider you. Federalist party, whatever that is. Next.
  • “Zuma Dogg” Saltzberg: Comes across as kookie. More importantly: no clear summary of his positions. Next.
  • Craig X Rubin: Pro-marijuana. Pastor, who teaches the Jewish Nature of the New Testament. His main campaign plank seems to be pot. Next.

Of the field, the only possibilities other than Mayor Tony would be Walter Moore or Phil Jennerjahn. But I don’t have a good sense of them. C’mon somebody. Convince me.