Yesterday President Obama spoke about his health-care agenda at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association in Chicago. Mr. Obama reiterated his desire for a public-plan option modeled after Medicare that would compete with private insurance plans. Speaking to the audience of health-care providers, Mr. Obama claimed that a public plan was about competition and would not be a “Trojan horse for a single-payer system.”
Clive Crook, writing in yesterday’s Financial Times, challenges that contention:
Shutting it down is not the purpose of the public plan, say its Democratic supporters: the public plan is just one more choice. This is disingenuous. If the public plan had to compete on truly level terms with private plans, how would it be able “to keep them honest”? If it is going to exert the pressure it is intended to and really make a difference, it will have to flex its political muscle, its ability to attract subsidy and its superior buying power: “accept this lower reimbursement or no Medicare patients for you”. A public plan cannot be just another competitor: it is anti-competitive, and meant to be.
If a public-plan option were implemented, the government could easily stack the deck in its favor. Independent research from Lewin has indicated that a public-plan option would lead to 120 million Americans losing their private insurance and being forced into the public plan. A single-payer system would be inevitable.
Furthermore, Medicare is certainly no case study in fiscal discipline. Since Medicare became law in 1965, real per capita health-care expenditures have increased almost six fold. Medicare has not stood idly while costs have escalated either. Medicare has as much blood on its hands as anyone. Medicare has 36 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities. The system is broke. Where are the trial lawyers when you really need them? Just imagine if a private health-insurance company was ran this poorly — forget bankruptcy court; CEOs would be carted off to jail with applause from any liberal pundit that could get in front of a microphone.
Medicare’s inadequacies are no surprise. It possesses the same deficiencies the public has become accustomed to from all forms of government. For a reminder, just take a trip to the DMV. Or better yet — how do you spell AIG?
Doctors currently waste way too much precious time bogged down in paperwork and bureaucratic red tape. Fortunately, cures exist that can improve health care in this country and return it to the patient; however, more government intervention isn’t one.
– Jason Fodeman, MD is a recent graduate of Albert Einstein College of Medicine.