F.A.Q.: Everything you've wanted to know about health care reform

Andy Miller

Health care reform has created a whirlwind of facts and fictions. Feeling confused about the issue? Walletpop cuts through the noise to give you clear and simple answers:

Isn't the public option for freeloaders? Why should we adopt it when critics are calling it socialist?

A public option won't have freebies. Everyone will pay a premium to get coverage from the public plan or option, although the uninsured with low incomes will get a subsidy from the government to afford coverage. Many individuals cannot get insurance now because they have pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes. These patients, under reform, could buy coverage through a private insurer or a public plan or option, if it's approved by Congress.

Users of a public option could include small businesses, their workers and many young adults, who account for a large number of uninsured.

Supporters of the public option, including President Obama, say it will increase competition in health insurance.
The public plan would be operated by the government, similar to Medicare. But the care will be delivered by private doctors, also just like Medicare. Not many people call Medicare ''socialist,'' but it's a term that opponents of the Democrats' initiative use to attack the public option. Still, there's no doubt that the public plan has become a divisive issue, and even some Democrats oppose the idea.

What kind of care would the public option give you?

The public plan would have to compete with private health plans for customers in an ''insurance exchange,'' or marketplace, so it would have to deliver comparable medical services. Democrats say the exchange would give consumers more information about the quality of medical services they're buying. So if a public plan didn't give good care -- if its customer satisfaction was low, for example -- consumers would vote with their feet. Obama and Democratic leaders have noted that the current U.S. health care system doesn't get good marks on medical quality. The system is plagued by medical errors. The life expectancy and overall health of the U.S. population ranks much lower than in many developed countries.