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Susan Estrich
5 Feb 2016
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29 Jan 2016
Donald Ducks

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Who Will Run the Free Hot Dog Stand?


Watching conservatives cheer the demise of the "public option" has left me shaking my head.

Now, if this were a reality show — "Who Wins Health Care?" — it would all make sense. The conservatives turned the "public option" into the symbol of big, expensive government taking away your health care to give it to immigrants. I kid you not: This is exactly how I've heard it described in more than one television debate, which leaves you denying that you want to kill your mother (mine is already dead, but still).

It is not easy to beat back such an idea, particularly in a country that is full of people who are on edge to begin with about their economic security, and with reason.

So score this round for the conservatives. The country doesn't want (even) big(ger) government. The private sector does everything better. Deja vu all over again.

But is the private sector ready to run a free hot dog stand?

One of the best lines in recent political campaigns is the one where Democrats say that if the health insurance plan members of Congress get is good enough for them, it's good enough for everyone in America. Hooray. Sounds great.

Everyone in the country is not going to get the health care plan Congress gets.

Most members of Congress elect one of the "best" plans available to federal employees, which is to say, they choose to get their hot dogs by appointment from whatever stand they want. Like me, they go to the $5 stand or the $10 stand, the one with the doctor you know, same-day service, and new and expensive machines. For that, you make additional contributions and pay co-pays and deductibles. Even with really good insurance, you pay.

The 40-something million Americans who don't have health insurance are not going to be coming to my stand, whatever bill Congress passes.

They can't afford it, and we certainly can't afford to pay for it for them. And, by the way, my insurance company isn't exactly looking for their business, especially if they're old (50 is old to them) or sick (gastritis counts as sick) or take prescription medicine regularly (above a certain age, who doesn't?).

It's not that insurance companies are a bunch of meanies who want to see people suffer. That's a good caricature for the game of "Who Wins Health Care?" But it doesn't happen to be true. They're business people trying to make a living. In a field where costs are constantly spiraling and everyone wants the best, can you blame people for not wanting more lousy risks in their pool? Nothing personal.

I never bought the idea that the "public option" was going to be so good that it would keep HMOs honest. It's a great theory. In practice, you just have to compare the waiting rooms at Kaiser to those at a public hospital like County-USC or Harbor-UCLA to know that there is no one sitting at County with a Kaiser card in their pocket.

We have a public option now. A friend's husband was just diagnosed with prostate cancer. They are American citizens. They both work. But neither of their jobs provides health insurance. They make too much money for Medicaid and way too little to afford the $12,000 it would have cost them to insure the family with a private insurer. Now, of course, no one would take them.

He went to Harbor, the public hospital, the public option. He sat there for about 14 hours, which wasn't so bad, and finally saw a doctor, who is ordering more tests, hopefully soon, and then they will see. At my hot dog stand, he would have had the tests already, and would have been examined by a surgeon skilled in the latest robotic techniques. He's not asking for that. He just doesn't want to die of something they routinely cure a few miles away.

So the conservatives win a round. Until they can answer the question of who is going to take care of my friend's husband, who cares?

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



15 Comments | Post Comment
Amen Susan. Too many of our neighbors are dying from lack of health insurance. Should this be an entitlement? I think so. I survived breast cancer thanks to some good doctors and a good health plan. Should anyone be denied health care for cancer or any other disease just because they can't afford insurance? Sounds unfair to me. Our conservatives and others who protest Obama's health care plan are screaming but not listening to the answers. They don't want to hear the truth. And they're the ones with insurance! They don't seem to care that millions are without health care.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Anita Manley
Fri Sep 4, 2009 6:20 AM
Susan, The government does not have enough money now, we are borrowing trillions of dollars from other countries. We have not seen any of Obama's plans work as he assured us they would. He lied about not signing any bills with pork in them. There are not as many people without insurance as they say there is, some of these are illegal immigrants as well as people who make enough money, they just choose to not buy insurance. In reality, they want to change our system for approximately 10 million people. There are changes to healthcare that needs to be made, one of them is tort reform, and simplying the laws that Congress writes. Just look to who Obama has around him that are not accountable to Congress or anyone who are writing these healthcare laws. He said he was going to have a transparent administration, buy yet all of these people are in the shadows advising our President.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Anne
Fri Sep 4, 2009 6:29 AM
Susan in your article you state "So the conservatives win a round. Until they can answer the question of who is going to take care of my friend's husband, who cares?"

I have an answer for you, how about your friend, her husband, and her family take care of him? And as a friend of the family you could offer to pitch in if so inclined, but instead you want me, who is not a friend and doesn't even know the guy, to foot the bill as a hard working tax payer. If you can't see whats wrong with your own statement and expectations than nothing a conservative tries to teach you about personal responsability will ever stick.

If I didn't bring you into this world, i am certainly not responsible for you while you're here! I give generously when I can, after my personal and family responsabilities are fulfilled, and I take a personal affront to people who wish to take even more from me when they have not earned it and it is not given freely.

Comment: #3
Posted by: Rick
Fri Sep 4, 2009 8:07 AM
Susan after reading your article I just have to ask: Is this the same Susan who wrote about her working all sorts of jobs and doing without in order to get her degree? If so then it appears to me that you have not learned about Personal Responsibility and yet, you are raising children and must make personal decisions daily which baffles me.

We have people who have worked hard to get ahead in this world, but, we also people who have learned how to scam the system to get more and more benefits free. The personal choices one makes in regards to their future of higher education and seeking a better paying job by possessing work habits, knowledge, and desire to achieve is not held by all, however; the majority of Americans help in every way possible when called on to do the right thing.

I am all for a universal health care bill that makes sense, but, what the liberals in the congress are screaming for does not make sense as too many items are left out to be filled in later by so called government panels. The so call Death Panel - how to explain it when the bill does not really address how, but, goes to a government panel to make the decisions. The illegals certainly not mentioned, but, the Democrats refused an admendent from Republicans to forbid illegals to received free health care. Why should we pay for peoples health care who have broken out laws?

I think the most sensible thing is to throw out what is written and start over from the very beginning and put together a bill that almost everyone can agree on that will not raise the national debt.

Of the so called 47 million uninsured how many plain old refuse to purchase insurance instead opting out for flat screen TVs, computers, new cars, etc? How many are actually here illegally? How many have been denied coverage by companies over preexisting conditions? All of the these facts need to be made known and addressed with remendies for each section of the problem instead of trying to ram through something that Congress members and Senator have not even read as Obama wanted.

Time for the President, Congress and Senate to join the real world of responsibility the same as a every day working person.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Gene44
Fri Sep 4, 2009 9:16 AM
Don't shake your head too hard, Sweety. Your brain might fall out of your ear.
Comment: #5
Posted by: fred furd
Fri Sep 4, 2009 9:46 AM
Susan, the last time I looked at the constitution I did not see health care in it. Of the "46 million people without health care", once you back out the illegal aliens, people making over $75,000 per year that choose not to buy insurance, people that for a short period of time in the year were not covered, and the folks eligible for government programs that have not signed up, you are left with 6 million (CBO numbers) people that need a reformed system. This is 2% of our population. For this you want a national takeover of health care??? What about tort reform? Since the Democrats are in bed with trial lawyers that will never happen. What about government guaranteed malpractice insurance the way we have government guaranteed student loans? What about removing the law that forbids getting health insurance across state lines? This will never happen because both parties are in bed with the insurance industry. Just doing these three things will drop health care costs over 30%, but I do not see any of these items in any of the bills proposed. Instead they want to charge a 25 year old single male $700+ per month, and deduct it from his paycheck, to pay for the costs that remain after they clean out Medicare. Why not offer him a $5,000 deductible policy for $50 per month, and maybe he will sign up. But no, we want on size fits all. And the best part, but seldom mentioned, is in all of the bills proposed, THE IRS IS DESIGNATED AS THE ENFORCING AGENT. And you wonder why there is so much resentment for this bill. To answer your question about your friend, if the three things above were done, they could afford coverage and not be in this situation. I presently hold a job at more than 50% less than my previous job because after being out of work for over one year( try getting employed in this market when your industry no longer exists, and you are over 60) I took this position because it offers health care benefits for me, my wife, and my minor children. To me health care benefits are something that I place above replacing my two cars that have 400,000 miles on them between them. Did your friend have the same priorities?
Comment: #6
Posted by: red5mutual
Fri Sep 4, 2009 10:42 AM
The republican attitude of " Hey , I got mine, and I am going to see to it that you don't get yours" is very evident with the commenters to your article. I guess being selfish is one of the main traits necessary to be a true conservative. These are the same idiots who think that taxpayers should not pay for public schools because they do not have children......They fail to see the big picture that a well educated poplace eventually contributes much higher taxes to the common pot and are usually less of a burden on society than the less educated in our society. Good education and Good health is a societal necessity. It eventually helps us all and keeps us from becoming a third world entity. We have to invest in both and make our society stronger. We are not doing that today. We have Death Panels already in place within all health insurance companies with entire divisions of these vulture companies who work every day to deny funding for every procedure that cost them money. AND THE PEOPLE IN THOSE DIVISIONS GET BONUS MONEY FOR EVERY CLAIM THEY SUCCESSFULLY DENY. The insurance giant CIGNA killed Natalie Sarkysian by denying her doctor's request that she be approved for a liver transplant. After a massive public demonstration outside CIGNA headquarters, they relented...but it was to late. Natalie died a few days after the insurance company finally agreed to approve her transplant but before the operation could take place. This type of for profit Death Panel goes on every day with these heartless profit driven insurance companies. So stop it right-wingers with your attempts to insult average Ameericans who are being victimized by these insurance companies. We ain't that dumb.
Comment: #7
Posted by: robert lipka
Fri Sep 4, 2009 6:54 PM
I note that one of the commenters says that Healthcare is not in the Constitution. This type of comment is typical of those who do not understand the Constitution. EVERYTHING THAT THE CONGRESS, THE PRESIDENT, AND THE SUPREME COURT VOTES ON, SIGNS INTO LAW, AND UPHOLDS IS CONSTITUTIONAL. That is what the Constitution was set up to provide. And think about the line", liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Those items are what every American is entitled to enjoy. Note that the first item mentioned is LIFE. Your friend is entitled to his life. No insurance company should be able to take that away from him either by using their profit driven DEATH PANEL divisions standing between the patient and their doctor OR by making premiums so high that average citizens cannot afford them Or by denying them altogether using "PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS as a bar to coverage. National healthcare, if passed by Congress, Signed into law by the President and upheld by the Supreme Court, if necessary, would be CONSTITUTIONAL.
Comment: #8
Posted by: robert lipka
Sat Sep 5, 2009 6:07 AM
I am sure that state will pay for the medical care unless their income is such that they could afford on their own. A catastrpohic policy would cover exactly this event if your friend had such a policy. There are alot of specific details that need to determined . In most cases such as this in which 2 people work yet no empoyer provided health care disposable income is spent on everything other than Health Insurance. If it is not tangible than it is not purchased may be the mentality of your friends, unfortunate , especially since they now find themselves in a life changing health event. My suggestion is to modify family budget to include a Catastrohic Policy and cut back on other expenses. There are plenty of treatment options for early stage Prostate Cancer, lets pray the Cancer has not spread outside of the Prostate.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Jay Jones
Sat Sep 5, 2009 7:45 AM
Hey Susan. Ever hear of catastrophic health insurance,It cost about $3200 a year with a $5000 deductible. Surely that is not too much to ask people to pay for insurance that after all, used to be for just such situations a your friends face.
Comment: #10
Posted by: jean
Sat Sep 5, 2009 9:53 PM
There are many working people like your friends who fall through the cracks for various reasons and therefore have to beg for healthcare (e.g., go to the emergency room of a public hospital) or beg from family and friends to help pay their medical bills. Conservatives are now trying to "debunk" the 46 million uninsured figures to justify doing nothing to fix the system, but the numbers don't really matter. If even ONE working American has to beg for health care or financial assistance, THAT is what's wrong with the system that needs to be fixed. What it means is that our society has reached a point where a majority doesn't care about anyone but themselves, as the comments above clearly show, and neither do they understand how much they depend upon working people who earn much less than them and cannot afford health insurance or care. I would like to see you write about that. If every worker in this economy made a living wage, many of those conservatives opposing healthcare reform would not be able to afford THEIR insurance either because the prices of all the goods and services they are buying with their discretionary income would be so high they'd have little left for healthcare.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Laurie Craw
Sat Sep 5, 2009 10:30 PM
Liberals use language like "opposition to health care reform" to make it sound like conservative people don't want to help people like your friends, but the proper nomenclature for what Obama wants is "reform of government intervention in the lives of individual citizens through more intrusion."
NO ONE is against helping the uninsured U.S. citizens. I respect you a lot even though I rarely agree with you. Please don't use red herrings in your arguments.
Keep up the good work!

Comment: #12
Posted by: sandy
Sun Sep 6, 2009 10:12 AM
Always love reading your articles until you make your point. This time as usual you missed the point. Everyone will NOT be going to the "Kaiser" doctors but going to the doctors where you have to wait for days to be seen and weeks and months to be treated for something easily treatable down the street.Just like the liberal idealism of socialism and communism people think of equality among the masses at the top rung of the ladder not the bottom of the ladder. Canada and the UK citizens would be happy to wait 14 hours to see a doctor. They can't get in to see one. Oh and speaking of Kaiser, before her death, my mother would call in June for a doctor's appointment and be told to call in July and when she did they would set an appointment for August. That was in 1998. I doubt its better now.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Jim
Mon Sep 7, 2009 8:33 AM
Where are you going to find the doctors to operate your stand, Suzie
Comment: #14
Posted by: Paul
Tue Sep 8, 2009 7:00 PM
What a load of hot air! Your "friend" with cancer was seen within 14 hours at a public hospital? How long do you think he/she would wait where socialized medicine already exists - England, Canada ? 14 hours in those countries would be a dream come true for somebody who can't wait to see a doctor. This is why most Americans do not want socialized medicine. They are shaking their heads at you, Susan.
Comment: #15
Posted by: Jeff
Tue Sep 8, 2009 7:03 PM
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