Public Option By Any Other Name

I read it last night. The Senate is dropping public option.

Reuters: “Senate Democratic negotiators said they had reached agreement on Tuesday on a compromise scaled-back public insurance plan in a broad healthcare overhaul and would seek cost estimates on the the deal.”

I read on.

“A team of 10 Senate Democrats–five liberals and five moderates–had been working for days on a substitute to the government-run plan included in the Senate bill, which has dismayed some moderates.

Democratic Senate sources said the substitute proposal would create a non-profit plan operated by insurers but administered by the Office of Personnel Management, which supervises health coverage for federal workers.”

Take a look at that sentence. A non-profit plan makes me think of Bkue Cross and Blue Shield. That’s not too distressing. When the story says the plan, “will be operated by insurers but administered by the Office of Personnel Management”, I spot a conflict. If you operate a business, but a government agency is the administrator, who is really in charge, the operator or the administrator?

Who hires the workers and sets their pay? What products do you offer? (What kinds of health insurance? What do you cover; what do you exclude?) What is the cost to consumers? How do you respond to competition? If you lose money, who bails you out? Who do you answer to? Who are your “stockholders” and “constituents”? When the government owns GM, it certainly feels entitled to call the shots such as determining colors for cars, pay for executives, plant and dealership closures, retail prices, fuel efficiency. In health care, the government would decide if mammograms, abortions, and sex change operations are covered, if patients have to pay any portion of medical services, and the thousands of choices in cost, efficiency, and offerings, with their underlying moral and economic assumptions.

A few days back a senator remarked that it was imperative to get rid of the name “public option”. She didn’t care what it was called, as long as it could shed the perjorative name that many in the public associate with excess government control. It seems her wish was consumated.

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