– Darrell West is vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution and the author of Digital Medicine: Health Care in the Internet Era. The views expressed are his own. —
It is not the first time Washington has been disconnected from the general public, but recent discussions over healthcare reform reveal a D.C. establishment fixated on arguments not central to the general public.
The air waves are filled with clashing claims over the so-called public option whereby Medicare would be expanded to include more Americans. Proponents claim this is the best way to cover most Americans currently without coverage and drive down costs by creating competition for private insurance companies.
Opponents complain about a “government-run” health system and bureaucrats coming between physicians and patients.
According to pollster Geoffrey Garin, though, voters do not have a big problem with the public option, or employer or individual mandates requiring coverage. A recent New York Times/CBS News survey found that 72 percent of Americans support a “government administered health insurance plan” similar to Medicare and 59 percent believe the government would do a better job than private insurance companies in holding down health care costs.