President Obama is speaking to the American Medical Association today to try to get its support for his version of health reform. To succeed, he will have to convince the AMA, and the American people, that the government won’t be taking over health care, and that he knows how to pay for his plan.
Doctors won’t like a “public plan,” because they too often lose money on current “public plan” patients — those in Medicare. A broad-range public plan for non-retirees will over time shrink the number of Americans in private coverage, because some employers will stop offering plans, and more and more individuals will migrate towards the government plan. As Scott Harrington writes in today’s Wall Street Journal, a public plan would soon become the only plan. This is why not only doctors, but also some key Blue Dog Democrats, are opposed to the government plan.
In terms of cost, estimates are in the range of $1.2 trillion or higher. President Obama has been talking about higher taxes, provider cuts, and taxes on comprehensive, employer-provided health insurance to pay for it. These ideas won’t be popular among doctors, either.
–Tevi Troy is the former deputy secretary of health and human services, and author of Intellectuals and the American Presidency.