In spite of the inefficiency and costliness of government provided healthcare projects to date (think HMOs and Medicaid part D), the Democrats in Congress are pushing for a public health care option open to all. While many eager liberals are flying straight towards the shiny blue light of “universal health care,” some are taking a moment to step back and reconsider what they’re signing us up for.
North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan (D), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee, has recently voiced trepidation over this public health care plan, and is receiving a tremendous amount of – to put it nicely – anger from congressional Democrats who support the plan. According to the News and Observer, Moveon.org, a liberal advocacy group, has threatened to run ads against Hagan if she does not rescind her opposition against the public option plan. Her vote might prove crucial to moving the measure out of committee, but she understands that more effort should be forwarded to find a compromise between the proposed national level public option and more efficient state level reforms that would not threaten the existence of private or non-profit entities which provide health care for the majority of Americans.
The NC Senator is not alone in her opinion, as the proposed public health care option has received bipartisan opposition. Many moderate Democrats have joined the unanimous Republican opposition to the plan. The two Senate bills in question are being put forward by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D – Mass.) and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D- MT). The proposals are estimated to cost $1 trillion and $1.6 trillion respectively in the next 10 years, while still only reaching about a third of those currently uninsured. The new plan would restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, who currently provide health care to 70% of Americans, thanks to low-ball reimbursement rates and premiums offered up by the government plan (which of course can be compensated for with taxpayer dollars). Doctors already taking Medicare patients would be forced to participate in the new program – regardless of whether or not they have the capacity to accept these new patients, meaning longer wait times for patients. The American Medical Association, although committed to the expansion of affordable health insurance for all Americans, has reacted against the plan as its members continue to believe insurance is better provided through private markets.
Recent surveys suggest the public opposes the plan as well. A Rasmussen poll states that just 32 percent of Americans believe that the addition of a public sector insurance option would reduce the cost of health care; 40 percent say it would not. Sixty-three percent (63%) say it’s likely that a government insurance company would lose money and require taxpayer subsidies. Just 20 percent say that’s not likely. Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans believe private insurance companies will provide better service and more choice than the government option. Thirty-four percent (34%) hold the opposite view. These numbers demonstrate that a majority of people are convinced that such a public plan would reduce available options and make health care more costly and less effective in providing quality health care for Americans in the long term.
Senate Republicans have provided several alternatives to the health care plan, but their voices have gone largely unheard. Last month, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr (R) along with Senator Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma proposed a plan to provide tax credits that would open the space for better options for people alongside serious health care reform, without annihilating the free market. But this suggestion was quickly knocked down by Sen. Baucus’ supposed bipartisan proposal that did nothing more than add $600 billion to the bill. Our best hope is waiting for a sea change in the mindset of the congressional Democrats, before all Americans are faced with the disastrous effects of a universal government run health care plan.
Does the health care system need reform? – Of course. But unless we are looking for a system that gives all decision-making power to the federal government, will cost trillions more, and essentially ensure we are forced into a health care system with all the personal charm of the DMV and efficiency of the post office – the federal government’s plan is not the answer, and people are all too aware of this.
Given the evident public opposition and internal party divide among Democrats, why are some lawmakers rushing to support a plan the majority of people are not onboard with? Then again, to them, what is another multi-billion dollar spending project, the collapse of more private American businesses, and another ineffective government project further sinking us into debt at this point, but a drop in the bucket?