Nurses at a Nicaraguan hospital. (Photo: interplast / flickr)El País:
One of the most contentious elements of the American health care debate right now is the proposal to create a public agency that would offer the uninsured - especially poor and low-income citizens - a nonprofit alternative to private insurance companies. President Obama has made it clear to the American people that those who already get their insurance through the private system can keep their coverage, and that their freedom of choice will be maintained in all cases at all times. But opponents of the proposed reforms - those who are fighting to defeat the president and don't care if (or actively desire that) the system remains as it is - have raised the specter of "socialized medicine": the "grave threat" of a giant state apparatus supported by intergovernmental fiscal transfers and placed in a position of competitive advantage against private insurers.
The lesson from Chile and Latin America is unambiguous: the United States should support, not fear, a public option and increased government regulation of the private corporations. This will help to expand coverage, reduce abuse and keep the insurers in check, leading to lower costs and better health and well-being for the American people.