During today’s press conference President Obama used a popular taunt to defend the inclusion of a government-run health care plan.
“If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they’re telling 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?” Obama asked rhetorically. “That’s not logical.”
This more or less amounts to him saying, “What are you, chicken?”
The problem is that it wouldn’t be a fair fight. Not when government is making the rules, regulating the insurers, and running the exchange on which the plans will “compete.”
“I think that there is a legitimate concern, if the public plan was simply eating off the taxpayer trough, that it would be hard for private insurers to compete,” Obama acknowledged. But he dismissed this concern, saying that it was just a matter of how the public plan is structured. But that’s just a trademark Obama tactic – to say he’s sympathetic to very real concerns of his political opponents, and then pretend that their concerns can be easily resolved, even though he doesn’t offer any details of how that would be possible.
The whole point of a government plan is that it will be so big and powerful that it can use its bargaining power to negotiate cheaper prices for medical care. This is a good thing, say its proponents. The problem is, the ultimate cost of providing care doesn’t fall – it just gets shifted onto those who have private insurance or pay out of pocket. This already happens with Medicare and Medicaid, representing a cost shift of almost $90 billion a year, according to one estimate by Milliman Inc.
And even if proponents of the government plan claim that it won’t have access to general revenues, nobody who is being intellectually honest would argue that if the plan is losing money, the federal government will allow it to fail without pumping more taxpayer dollars into it. When that day comes, conservatives can make all the arguments they want about how Democrats promised the government plan wouldn’t have access to taxpayer funds, and the only response will be that if we don’t bail out the government plan, tens of millions of Americans will lose their health insurance.
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