I appreciate the Chinook Observer's efforts to inform its readers about health care reform. Gate Gable's column in the Aug. 5, edition - entitled "Coast Chronicles: Reaching for the Stars - Health Care Reform" - is a case in point. It exemplifies the clear-headed thinking behind the reform movement.

I'm concerned that the government-sponsored public option proposed by President Barack Obama is going to die in Congress. It would be a grave mistake not to include a public option in a reform bill. Not providing a public option would relegate us consumers back to picking and choosing among private insurers, as we do now, and be subject to their bottom lines, as we are now.

Neither insurers nor providers nor patients would be irreparably harmed by a public alternative to health insurance. I base my view on the efficacy of the workers' compensation insurance systems that the states have adopted. I'm a retired lawyer who worked for Pinnacol Assurance in Colorado for 12 years. Pinnacol Assurance is the statutory public state workers' comp insurer. It was created in 1915 in conjunction with the state's Workmen's Compensation Act and has been providing a public option to workers' comp insurance since then. The purpose of creating a state compensation insurance fund was to guarantee a source of insurance for all employers, who are required to obtain workers' comp insurance. Colorado's workers' compensation program is basically similar to that of most states.

Pinnacol Assurance in one form or another (it has changed through the years) has been a dependable and economical source for workers' comp insurance since its inception nearly 100 years ago. It enjoys great support from the state's businesses. It hasn't socialized medical treatment for injured workers. It hasn't driven private insurers out of the state. It has set standards for performance and affordability that private insurers must emulate to stay competitive. To the public, it is barely noticeable. For injured workers and its insured employers, large and small, it is crucial.

Rules can be adopted to make a public option to health insurance fair to all stakeholders. Critics of a public option claim, in part, that it would deny choice to consumers. But the very existence of a public health insurance plan would open options for those seeking insurance.

Pat Bray

Ocean Park

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