The propaganda, misconceptions, and outright lies that prevailed during the first round of debates in Congress surrounding the Employee Free Choice Act (ECFA) fail to compare to the rhetoric spewing out of the people and organizations that are against health-care reform. Now that Congress has placed the ECFA on the back burner, the health care debate has taken a life of its own for some who separate those who are "patriotic" and believers in "democracy" and those who supposedly aren't.

The best option, a single-payer health-care plan as proposed under H.R. 676, would continue to provide a choice of doctors and health-care providers without any exclusions or limitations from the private sector. This is very different from a system where the government employs doctors and hospitals under "socialized medicine" and is often confused by ignorance or intent when opponents try to scare us and demonize Single Payer.

As H.R. 676 has been declared off the table by leading Democrats, the next best option we can hope for is the Public Option.

"The biggest hypocrisy from those opposing the Public Option finds fault in government's ability to do anything right."

However, now there is mass confusion and misinformation concerning the various proposals. The biggest hypocrisy from those opposing the Public Option finds fault in government's ability to do anything right. The typical claims of inefficiency, bureaucracy and cost overruns permeate the argument that the free market can best deliver goods and services.

Yet, the same groups, including the insurance companies and health providers, cry foul over any attempt by Congress to create competition from the public sector. They say that they won't be able to compete with a government-administered plan, that they may be put out of business by the inefficient and unaccountable government!

What does that say about the efficiency of the health-care system now?

And what does that say about our freedom, our ability to have a multitude of choices in the competitive "free-market," where we are supposed to embrace open markets and allow the "let-the-best-man-win" attitude to take precedence?

Could it be that they are advocating the elimination of more choices? I guess it's okay to have a lot of choices in this country, as long as it doesn't include more choices in the health insurance industry.

Or is "freedom from competition" what they meant? In an industry where two or three major players control 90 percent of the markets, where the price differences between health insurance premiums, competition is almost non-existent, and consumers, if unable to afford the price, get nothing.

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Speaking of freedom, when a worker wants to relocate or must relocate and find a new job, how is it a freedom when the mere act of accepting a job position is dependent on whether the new employer will provide health insurance? How many times have workers stayed right where they were, unable to help a family member who needs assistance in a different state; didn't pursue that new dream job; didn't go back to school; or take a position that pays more, because they didn't want to lose their health insurance?

"The Public Option isn't something brand new, it's not reinventing the wheel. We already have it, just not for everyone."

Doesn't sound like freedom to me, sounds like being trapped in a cage.

The Public Option would eliminate this fear and would help promote economic activity and new investments in people's lives. Portability of health-care coverage following you no matter where you worked, not dependent on any one job, would change the way we look at work and life. The fear of going bankrupt because of medical costs would disappear too, in this, the richest country on the planet.

What has become most amusing are the arguments of those who say they don't want the government meddling with or administering their current insurance, the insurance that they are totally happy with, the insurance that has never forced them to wait months or years for treatment.

Yet, some of these folks are on Medicare or receive care from the Veteran's Health Administration, the Military Health System, Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Plan, or are elected officials participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

The Public Option isn't something brand new, it's not reinventing the wheel. We already have it, just not for everyone.

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The last comment concerns the taxing of the "Cadillac Plans," especially those that affect working families and union members. These misrepresented premium health insurance plans are anything but "extravagant" and will affect mostly union-negotiated plans. Sure, there are some plans out there that millionaires enjoy, but the thought of taxing working-family health-care plans because they are Cadillac-quality is outrageous.

"As long as the insurance companies are the sole players in the market and come between health care and their patients, things will never change."

Union members who are fortunate enough to still have such coverage had to give up something big for it. You don't always hear about the wage freezes, even wage cuts, and other give-backs negotiated by union members just to keep the insurance coverage going.

In many instances, the coverage is costly because the industries pose dangerous or toxic threats to their workers' health. Look at the steel, mining, or construction industries. There is always a price to pay, so it isn't right to go after those that have already made a sacrifice.

The Public Option is a must. If we can't get Single Payer, it will be a deal breaker. If it's not part of the solution, then we aren't reforming anything. As long as the insurance companies are the sole players in the market and come between health care and their patients, things will never change.

The sad part about all of this is our lack of compassion for fellow human beings. Of all the bills and expenses our government pays, decent health care is the one issue we fight and are the most divided about. Look at the real numbers; don't just listen to the interest groups that are trying to save their profit margins.

Health-care coverage for all of a country's citizens hasn't caused the downfall of European countries, Asian countries, or even a North American country. How can it be we, in the good old USA, are still living in the health-care Stone Age?

Tom Szymanski can be reached at toms@ibew725.org.