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The Public Option

June 24th, 2009

At his press conference today:

OBAMA: … As one of those options, for us to be able to say, here’s a public option that’s not profit-driven, that can keep down administrative costs, and that provides you good, quality care for a reasonable price as one of the options for you to choose, I think that makes sense.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t that drive private insurance out of business?

OBAMA: Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If — if private — if private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.

As people have said before, in answer to the criticism that a low-cost government plan will drive the private insurers out of business, one should say, “Good!” In this case, the anti-socialized-medicine crowd can’t win; they’ve painted themselves into a corner. If it’s an option to take the public insurance route, then if people don’t want it, they won’t take it. If government can’t run health care efficiently, then private health insurance should drive the public insurance out of business. And if the government can do health insurance better than private industry, then why shouldn’t it?

The right-wing criticism is that the government can’t run anything efficiently, but we’ve seen that proven false lots of times–until the Republicans get their hands on it and intentionally drive it into the ground, and then declare, “See!?”

Opponents of public health care ask snidely if people want politicians making your medical decisions for you. A stupid question, as politicians would meddle with your coverage far less than the insurance companies currently do; under a public plan, your doctor would have more control than now. And right now, lawyers working for the insurance companies are making your medical decisions based upon how much it profits them; how’s that working out?

The bottom line is this: health care should not be a lucrative, for-profit industry. We’ve seen close-up what happens when it is, when corporations can charge whatever the market can bear to save your life, and lie, cheat, and steal when it comes to living up to their end of the bargain. The whole reason there’s even a debate about this is because the private businesses have done such a horrific job. The insurance companies are running scared because they know that they can’t compete with a public health insurance option, not without cutting their profits to a reasonable margin, covering people the way they’re supposed to, and not denying them coverage at every possible excuse. They don’t want to lose all that.

Categories: Corporate World, Corruption, Health Issues Tags: by
    June 24th, 2009 at 13:19 | #1

    I hasten to add that under no circumstances I defend the current state of affairs in the U.S. I agree with you that health care should not be a lucrative, for-profit industry. But presenting the public option in terms of competitiveness and market efficiencies is not obvious. In a duel, you should try to choose the grounds and the weapons.

    June 24th, 2009 at 13:43 | #2

    Luis, I notice that only the second of my two comments of a while ago registered: I must have done something wrong.

    Please erase it because it makes no sense without the first.

  3. Tim Kane
    June 24th, 2009 at 14:04 | #3

    Great points, Luis. The Republicans (and their ilk) have rhetorically painted themselves into a corner. Unfortunately they still have all the money, including their own massive media assault weaponry.

    I actually think that Obama is being quite charitable with the insurance companies – in fact, too charitable.

    This OECD study shows (see top graph on page 13) that the U.S. government already pays out more money, per capita, in health care expenditures than any other country, except Norway.

    What that means is, we are already paying for universal public health care, we just aren’t getting it.

    If we changed to, say, the French system (argued as the best in the world) the amount of money the government spends on health care would actually go down. In other words, we’d all be in for a TAX CUT!

    Since the rule of thumb in insurance is, the bigger the pool, the lower the cost, and since we’re 6 times larger than France, we might expect even more and bigger savings.

    The point is we are already paying for universal health care, we just aren’t getting it. The government could make a policy change tomorrow and the cost to government, and thus the tax payer would go down.

    In essence, then, universal public insurance would be free – because it’s already paid for.

    Public Option, then, shouldn’t be the compromise position.

    Private Option should be the compromise position.

    Obama should say that, we’re flipping the switch on a certain date, and from that point on everybody is covered. However, if you have a private plan you think is great, and you want to keep, you can. It’s your option. It will be redundant though, because you are already covered.

    Everyone else, can then go into work on Monday, tell their HR department that they want the insurance benefit monetized and rolled into their paycheck.

    The resulting increase in purchasing power, will lift up demand and we will be able to walk out of our current Great Recession that we are in.

    So for the price of a tax cut, we would get free health insurance for life and get out of the Great Recession we are in.

    The current plan is not only killing our economy, killing our industries, and killing all our jobs, it’s also killing people. 50 million are without health insurance. 18,000 people will needlessly lose their lives this year because they didn’t have enough or any insurance coverage — EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE ALREADY PAYING FOR IT!. That’s six times more people dying than Al Quaida killed on 9/11 or that died when Pearl Harbor was bombed.

    The current plan benefits, at most, maybe 3,000 billioinaires and near billionaires. For their sake we sacrifice our economy, industries, jobs, and tens of thousands of lives. The imposition of the current system says that United States is not a democracy. It is a plantation. To paraphrase John McCain from the election last summer: “We’re all n!*g*rs now.”

    June 24th, 2009 at 15:52 | #4

    Guys, all very true. The point, however, is how you sell it to a public skeptic, not without reason, of government run enterprises. And I think that putting it in terms of “competitiveness” it is not only spurious but also the hard way of doing it.

    The issue, as Luis points out, is that “The whole reason there’s even a debate about this is because the private businesses have done such a horrific job.”

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