The Corner

The Public Option: An Obamacare Fix That Won’t Fix Anything

Avik Roy has an article at Vox about how liberals dismissed criticisms of Obamacare while it was being debated, only to have those criticisms vindicated later. In passing, he also writes about the resurgence of progressive support for a “public option”:

Instead of reconsidering the ACA’s thicket of costly and contradictory regulations, the law’s cheerleaders remain romantically attached to the unlikely notion that a “public option”could lower premiums — unlikely because it would only succeed if the government-run insurer paid doctors and hospitals far less than private insurers do, and forced providers to accept those lower rates. Contrary to the naïve belief of some on the left, “insurer profits” are not the driver of high health care costs. 

Megan McArdle has also cast a skeptical eye on another argument for the public option as a cost-cutter:

Now, the public option could, with legal support, perhaps force providers to take [lower rates than private insurance plans play] — say “If you don’t accept public option patients, you can’t see Medicare patients either.” The problem is that if you try that, all the groups who would be affected: hospitals, doctors, auxiliary service providers, health-care workers’ unions and so forth — will descend upon their legislators with the white-hot fury of a thousand suns. These folks are well organized. They are extremely mediagenic. No lawmaker wants to be seen cutting the salaries of nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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