Politico reports this morning that “supporters [of the public option] are working hard this week to bring it back, against the odds, with a series of high-profile votes in the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.” While various Democrats are sending mixed signals about whether or not the final bill will include this option, the President clearly wants it in, having told Univision, “I absolutely do not believe that it’s dead.”
Now, oftentimes when I debate health care reform with friends and talk about my experiences getting health care, I tell them that what we need is more competition. And many of my liberal friends, those most familiar with the Democrats’ talking points quickly reply that, well, that’s what we need a public option.
And that leads to my invariable reply, “When has a government program lead to increased competition, especially one that involves a government entity offering the same product as one already available in the private sector?”
My interlocutors are clearly unaware of the combination of provisions in the proposed health care bills which push people toward the public option (penalties making it cheaper for private companies to drop health care coverage, the requirement that people buy an “accceptable” plan, the government’s ability to offer cheaper plans, given that it is not subject to market forces.)
Not since Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting policies of the first part of the last century perhaps has any government policy served to increase the number of businesses in a given industry offering goods and services. With more private sector enterprises able to compete, they struggle to offer the best product at the best price so as to increase their market share (and profit margin). As a result, we see lower prices and increased innovation.
That’s what we need to see in health insurance, private companies freer to offer a diverse array of coverage and not just packages acceptable to the federal government.