A Rose by Any Other Name . . . Is a Public Plan

Let’s not get lulled into complacency. Obamacare, or some mutation thereof, remains on the table. In the aftermath of Scott Brown’s Senate victory, one potential liberal health-care strategy is to adopt the Senate bill in the House. With 17 percent of the nation’s economy at stake, this approach warrants a closer look. While the Senate version may be the lesser of two evils, this is by no means centrist legislation. It will still lay the groundwork for a government takeover of medicine. The packaging may be new and the talking points refined, but the product is essentially the same.

The bill that passed the Senate on a straight party-line vote will establish over 100 new government committees that will guarantee more government in the health-care sector. No doubt Mr. Obama will do what he does best and stack these committees with like minds who espouse the simple philosophy: private industry bad, government good. One can only wonder if Van Jones will make an encore performance. Surely rationer-in-chief, Ezekiel Emanuel, will land a prestigious appointment or two. Unaccountable political appointees will be granted unprecedented power over important medical decisions that hitherto have typically been reserved for personal discussions between patients, loved ones, and physicians.

Whether or not the committees and or exchanges are better chaired by federal lackeys or state bureaucrats, they will dictate to insurance companies what they can and cannot cover, who they can cover, and how much they can charge. Private companies like Aetna and Humana will keep their trademarks at least temporarily. Yet they will remain private in name only. Uncle Sam will call the shots. Rather than one strong public plan that would compete with and quickly eliminate private insurance companies, this approach will turn every private insurance company into either mini public option or a mini public utility. Even dubbing this public plan lite would be akin to calling a tornado a breeze. It’s still a public plan and as before these new regulations and mandates will quietly erode the solvency of insurance companies and health care as we know it. Why any element of the health-care industry would support this, God only knows!

It will pave the way for either a straight single-payer system or the survival of a few select insurance companies (i.e. those with the best lobbyists). It’s the agenda the Left has pursued for decades. True, it may take a little longer to achieve the ultimate goal, but the fullness of time will escalate the role of government in medicine to new heights at the expense of patients who will inevitably face restricted access, long waits, and rationed care. Still many House members believe the Senate version is not liberal enough. Thus the fate of this bait and switch remains to be seen. Of course, despite its more appealing vase, the thorns of the Senate bill are as sharp as ever.

Jason Fodeman is an internal-medicine resident at the University of Connecticut. A former health-policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation, he is the author of How to Destroy a Village: What the Clintons Taught a Seventeen Year Old.

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