Friday, July 3, 2009

Conservatives On Public Health Option: It'll Be Cheaper–That's Unfair!

A strange yet revealing conservative critique of a public health care option continues to emerge: it will deliver health care services more inexpensively. Yes, that's supposed to be the problem.

Senator Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine stated, "If you establish a public option at the forefront that goes head-to-head and competes with the private health insurance market...the public option will have significant price advantages." Snowe wants the public option to be a "trigger mechanism" in case private plans fail to reduce costs. The public, though, overwhelmingly supports a public option and does not state it first wants private insurers, with their poor track record, to try providing less expensive services by themselves. Unlike the Republicans, the public's first priority is affordable health care, not the private health care industry.

Conservative columnist George F. Will similarly admits that public health care will be cheaper–and, again, that's the problem:

Assurances that the government plan would play by the rules that private insurers play by are implausible. Government is incapable of behaving like market-disciplined private insurers. Competition from the public option must be unfair because government does not need to make a profit and has enormous pricing and negotiating powers. Besides, unless the point of a government plan is to be cheaper, it is pointless: If the public option conforms to the imperatives that regulations and competition impose on private insurers, there is no reason for it.

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight summarized Will's position: "The government does not need to make a profit and will have greater leverage with providers; therefore it will deliver the same service for less money. That's unfair!"

President Obama recently questioned these critics of the public option: "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."

Sam Seder lampooned this critique of a less expensive public option's negative impact on more expensive private services. Watch:

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