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Don't Opt In

The public option is back on the table, in a new form. As proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the new public option allows states to decide whether to opt in or opt out. I think this is a fair compromise.

For those states whose senators opposed the public option and will probably continue to oppose it in any form, my message to you is this: If Senator Reid's proposal passes and becomes law, don't opt in. At least have the integrity to stand behind the vote of your chosen representatives. Don't opt in.

If you went to one of those town hall meetings and warned of socialism, Barack O'Communism and the like, then own your words and your deeds. Don't opt in. If you love federalism that much and hate so-called "big government" that much that you're willing to stick it to yourselves, well, then, party on. Don't opt in.

Seems to me that the states that most vehemently opposed the public option are also those states that have traditionally had the highest rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases. You know the states I'm talking about. Most of them are in the south. They would only increase the risk in the public option pool, not spread it. Maybe they don't know what it's like not to have access to affordable health care. Maybe they don't care at all.

You see, I know what it's like to have free health care extended to me in a time of need. I was interviewing for jobs in San Francisco during my third year of law school and the only health care coverage I had was through the law school's clinic. I sprained my ankle running for a bus, and a cab driver was kind enough to drop me at a free clinic in San Francisco, for no charge even. There I was, suited and booted, sitting among the drug addicts, the homeless, and the soiled doves, one of whom told me, "Girl, you might as well get tested for AIDS while you're here -- it's free, you know" -- waiting to be seen by a doctor, not knowing how much it would cost. I was seen, bandaged, given a set of crutches and instructions for treating my sprain, and was sent on my way. When I inquired as to a bill (and held my breath), I was told, "It's no charge. This is San Francisco." I told them that I could pay them when I got back to school, even send them back the crutches, and I was told that there was still no charge and that it would cost me more to send the crutches back then what they were worth. Trust me, I wore those crutches out -- in the snow on the way to class, up two flights of stairs to my hovel of a student apartment, you name it.

I know what it's like to be thankful for and in need of health care. I'm sure California will opt in if given the chance. Quite frankly, if the healthy states like Colorado and Hawai'i opt in, California needs to be up in the mix, too. Those high-risk states can go it alone, though, as far as I'm concerned. Maybe their states' rights will give them solace from the pain of not having access to affordable health care.

As my dad would say, sometimes people have too much sense for their own good.


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