The Obama administration has put up a white flag by floating the idea that the so-called public option is not an essential part of its health care agenda. This move comes after increasingly vocal skepticism from Americans regarding President Obama’s oxymoronic assertion that he can cut health care costs by expanding coverage and still keep his campaign promise of halving the federal deficit by the end of his first term.
A predictable uproar from the president’s liberal base emerged in response. Sixty members of Congress have stated that they will vote against any bill that doesn’t include a government-run option. These liberal Democrats are upset because the yellow brick road to their real goal – a single-payer system, something that President Obama publicly supported as recently as 2007 – could be thwarted.
In an about-turn, the White House is once again saying that it supports the public option. With the Obama administration’s mixed messages, no wonder neither liberals nor conservatives are pleased.
But getting rid of the public option is no bad thing. What the Obama administration is proposing in its “public option” plan is less about medical care and a lot more about government control of so many aspects of our lives.
The “public option” rests on an arbitrary notion called “the public interest”. If it is in “the public interest” for the government to cover individuals, it can just as easily be in “the public interest” to ration care for individuals because they don’t meet the government test regarding the value of their life.
The public option also doesn’t take into account the fact that it is Big Government itself that is behind most of the skyrocketing health care costs. State legislatures work with the American Medical Association to restrict doctors’ licenses, decreasing competition and increasing costs. Malpractice insurance and subsequent defensive medicine together account for 10% of health care costs, which tort reform (not a priority with the Obama administration) would help solve. There are also laws preventing insurance companies from selling their products across state lines, which result in only a few competitors in a state and thus higher costs and fewer choices for consumers.
Industry experts state that 70% of health care costs are driven by lifestyle choices. Why, in a public option plan, should Taxpayer ‘A’ subsidize the bad life choices of Taxpayer ‘B’, as well as non-taxpayers?
What will result under this public option/public interest model is an increase in the power of political pull: the interests of some individuals will be deemed more important than the interests of other individuals. Public officials (President Obama and Congress) have the arbitrary power yet don’t hold the public option plan in high enough regard to sign themselves and their families up for it.
Individuals afflicted or concerned with politically powerful illnesses (e.g., cancer, AIDS, etc.) will push for any new treatments to be covered while other constituencies (e.g., people with some rare disease) will likely get the short end of the stick. Health and medical groups will use political pull to get their service included as a mandate, which increases costs for everyone.
Nor will a public option increase competition. Unlike the 1,300 private insurers who already compete with each other, the government doesn’t have to make a profit to stay in business. It has the unique power to print money and the power of taxation to hide its true costs.
Meanwhile, the government-run option creates incentives for businesses to dump their employees onto taxpayers and pay the fine (a much cheaper fine than if an individual wants to opt out) in a Trojan Horse move towards liberals’ real goal of only one choice for all of us – the Nanny State.