Barack Obama is spinning his public health plan option today as just another way of helping preserve the private insurance system. According to Obama, the existence of a public plan will provide healthy competition for private insurers, and will not be the first step toward British-style socialized medicine.
Why is Obama so obsessed with a public plan option? It’s because once that option is in place, the debate over private health care will be over. This is one of the reasons the AMA is opposing the plan. Government, in the form of its taxpayer-subsidized plan, will further control the health care industry, and likely drive out private insurance. The “one nation, one plan” supporters will have won.
Obama is playing politics about his motivations and goals, saying only what he believes will be politically acceptable while all the while obtaining what is politically unacceptable. But Ezra Klein, a blogger now at The Washington Post, is honest about what is at stake in the debate over the public plan option (italics mine):
For most of you, this is the big one. The inclusion of a strong public insurance option has become, for most observers I know, the single most recognizable marker for victory. If the public plan exists, liberals have won. If it’s eliminated, or neutered, then conservatives have triumphed.
Read the rest of Klein’s post. I don’t accept his hypotheses about the efficiency of government delivered health care services, or whether such alleged efficiency justifies destruction of the private health system. But at least Klein is honest about the effect of Obama’s public plan option, and what is at stake.
So is Matthew Yglesias, a public plan supporter, who touts the dynamics of the debate:
Needless to say, the inclusion of such a plan in a health care exchange would be bad for the private insurance industry, so they oppose it. Fortunately, the public hates the private insurance industry, so it’s easy to attack insurer attacks on the public plan.
There is a reason Obama wants to portray the implementation of the public health plan as a crisis which cannot wait, just like the February 2009 stimulus plan. Because Obama knows that the more people understand what is at stake, the more they will oppose the public health plan option.
When it came to the stimulus plan, we didn’t stop the Congress from kowtowing to fear tactics. Don’t let it happen again.