Thursday, June 25, 2009

Obama's Logical Question: If Private Health Insurance Is The Best, Why Is A Public Plan A Threat?

At a press conference on Tuesday, President Obama made points well worth considering about fears that a public, government-run health plan would harm private insurance:

Obama: Now, the public plan, I think, is an important tool to discipline insurance companies. What we've said is, under our proposal, let's have a system, the same way that federal employees do, same way that members of Congress do, where we call it an exchange, but you can call it a marketplace, where, essentially, you've got a whole bunch of different plans... 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 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.

... just conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they're giving consumers the best possible deal, if they can't compete against a public plan as one option, with consumers making the decision what's the best deal, that defies logic, which is why I think you've seen in the polling data overwhelming support for a public plan. (h/t Ezra Klein)

Obama is addressing, in part, all of the Republicans, as well as some Democrats like Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who are motivated not by the millions without health insurance but by the millions that the health insurance industry pumps into political campaigns. The President targets a key contradiction: if private insurance provides the best coverage and meets the economic needs of consumers, why would anyone be attracted to a public option? 

At least Senator Nelson is candid: "At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game." That's why Nelson calls a public plan a "deal breaker." How can he support what he anticipates will be the more popular public plan when he received $608,709 from the insurance industry in 2007-2008? The Senator has his priorities.

If we're not going to have a universal, single payer system as it exists under every other Western democracy, at least we ought to have a public option. Perhaps then the private insurers would stop denying coverage for "pre-exising conditions." Isn't the point of competition to offer a better service than the competitor? In that way, a public plan can "discipline insurance companies."

Concern for the fate of private insurance is just one more illogical justification for not overhauling health care. In the following video, arguments against expanded coverage that seem nonsensical and heartless when posed by a public relations firm are accepted as part of the common discourse when they're repeated as right-wing talking points:

2 comments:

Mr. Charleston said...

Driving private health insurance out of business seems like a pretty good plan to me.

Case in point: I have a prescription that cost me $100 for 30 pills. I started buying it from Canada for $100 for 90 pills. I can now get it at WalMart for $4 for 30 pills.

It's not a damned bit different than 27% credit card interest. Left to their own devices the money grubbers will screw us every time.

It's definitely time for a change but I'm afraid the government is so corrupted that it won't happen in my lifetime.

Jeff Tone said...

I quite agree with you, Mr. Charleston. It's telling that private insurers fear a government-run alternative.

Most of the American people support government-run health care. Why is it so hard for us to get it? Our electoral system is set up so that politicians have to sell out for contributions–including from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries. The corruption is built-in.